He suffers from osteoporosis, which makes his bones brittle. What appeared to be a harmless fall onto grass this summer left him with five fractures in his right arm. Add it to the list. Over the years, Kevin has been kicked by a horse, hit by a truck and tripped over a rock, resulting in more broken bones. He has endured four operations to remove cysts, stretch tendons and pin broken bones.
Early on, Kevin knew he was different, and even if he didn’t there were people around to remind him. Kids made fun of his appearance or pointed; parents hustled away curious children.
“It hurts my feelings,” he says. “I’d rather people just ask questions.”
The social awkwardness is a loss for both sides. Kevin has a dazzling memory, self-awareness, a sense of humor and a loud, outgoing personality. “There were kids who were cruel and then got to know him and didn’t see his birthmark anymore,” says Dave. “Kevin is a positive guy and very honest. His spirit is probably 6-foot-4 and built like a linebacker.”
Perhaps having needed empathy himself, he is quick to feel empathy. During the softball season, a player on the opposing team was injured in a game against the Bonzai. A week later, Kevin brought a sympathy card to the game for the team to sign and gave it to the injured player.
“He had written a nice note to the player on the card,” says Harrison.
Kevin, an Eagle Scout with 63 merit badges, has served as an assistant Scoutmaster in a special needs Boy Scout troop for two decades. While Brent is at work, Kevin spends much of his considerable free time mowing lawns for a local garage and calling friends.
“He loves to talk on the phone,” says Dave. “He keeps track of everybody.”
About 30 years ago, Dave’s family — David Sr. and Georgie Taylor and their five children — befriended Kevin and invited him into their lives. The Taylors became his second family. He was a guest in their home for Christmas Eve and other holiday events and family parties. When one of the Taylor boys, Steve, got married, Kevin stood in the wedding line as one of his best men. When Dave was serving a church mission, Kevin wrote him letters — “49 of them,” corrects Kevin.
“I’m not even sure how it happened,” says Steve, “but he became part of the family. We love Kevin.”
The Bonzai team is made up of the Taylors — brothers, cousins, in-laws — and their friends. Kevin, a frequent sight on his bike around Draper and Sandy, likes to hang out at the ballpark on summer evenings, and last summer he was invited to join the Bonzai.
“We need a coach,” they told him.
He serves as a base coach and the resident cheerleader and dispenser of Kevinisms: “Put an HR on that ball and kiss it goodbye!” “Tighten up that defense now!” When things aren’t going well, he turns his John Deer “rally” cap backwards and sideways. When players come off the field, he scolds them for errors and offers advice, often in a pointed fashion, which the players take in stride.
“Don’t speak to me tonight, I’m mad at you,” he told one player as he came off the field after an error. Later he told the player, “I’m sorry I got so mad at you.”
“Sometimes I have to get after the players,” Kevin explains. “I tell them, if the ball’s coming, get your mitt down and use your whole body.”
Kevin never misses a game, but he was late once. As soon as he arrived, the players stopped pre-game warmups and gathered around him. When Kevin was unable to ride his bike to the park this summer because of the broken arm, the players arranged to drive him to and from the park.
“The boys took Kevin under their wings,” says Brent.
Brent, a parole officer and retired Sandy City policeman, says he has gotten to know his younger brother in a new way since moving into his parents’ home.
“I don’t look at him as having a handicap,” he says. “He’s just my brother, and when he has a problem we talk about things he can do about it. Mom and Dad sheltered him some. I want him to see what it’s like to be normal. I’ve taken him places, and so have the Taylors. And he’s been involved with softball. I tell him there’s a whole other world out there and he needs to see it.”
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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