On Tuesday afternoon, Duron Harmon was walking across the Fenway Park field, celebrating the Patriots Super Bowl LIII victory in front of an excited crowd. He beamed as his teammates tossed out the first pitch at the home opener.
Come Wednesday, the crowd was gone, but Duron's smile was still there.
Duron spent the morning visiting students at Boston Higashi School in Randolph, which works with students and young adults with autism. During a gym class, Duron watched as the students showed off the skills learned in their most recent unit: rollerblading.
As the students zoomed around the gym, Duron grabbed their hands and walked with them, smiling and laughing as he tried to keep up.
"I can honestly say this is probably the best school visit that I've ever been a part of it," Duron said. "It really touched my heart, and I'm just so gracious and so blessed to be able to take part in this today."
April is Autism Awareness Month, and the cause is personal for Duron. His 9-year-old nephew, Nic, has autism, and Duron has taken his platform in the NFL and turned it into a chance to shine a light on autism awareness. For two seasons, Duron used the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative to highlight Autism Speaks.
"It meant a lot because in all honestly because, in all of the kids, I saw my nephew. I think that’s why the visit was so meaningful," he said. "I see a school that really focuses on the needs of kids just like my nephew. You can see the progression of all the kids and how well they spoke, how much fun they were having, how they were interacting with each other and it just lets me know that this is a special place."
At the end of the class, Duron addressed the entire school at an assembly, and he told them about his nephew's strength and how it mirrors their own.
"He’s fighting each and every day, like you guys. You guys are here because you’re doing everything you can to be better and to continue to improve," Duron said. "I want to tell you guys that you might be a fan of me, but I’m a bigger fan of you guys. Continue to listen to your teachers, continue to improve and just know that you’ll always have a fan out there in Duron Harmon."
That message is hugely important, according to Principal Deborah Donovan.
"Each and every day, my kids have little moments. Maybe somebody learns how to tie their shoes. Somebody learns to spell a word. Somebody learns left from right. Somebody learns a new vocational skill," she said. "To have a champion celebrate that, that means so very much."
You can check out more photos from Duron's visit in the gallery below.
In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon visited the Boston Higashi School on April 10. He participated in a school-wide assembly and helped to lead a physical education class. Harmon provided word of encouragement and support to all of the students.