At every BYU home football or basketball game, thousands enter the stadium, watch the game, cheer and then leave, but few notice the friendly man with blue eyes behind plain, metal-framed glasses as he assists the players and the staff, helping out where he can.
That is how Jerry Freestone likes it. He’s not looking to be noticed or recognized. He serves, not because he has to or because he gets paid, but simply because he loves making others happy. He has been assisting BYU athletics for 14 years.
Freestone has learning disabilities that he said make him empathetic to those around him and enable him to be a genuine friend. He is a good friend even to people he just met. Kenny, Freestone’s older brother, can attest to the loyalty and love he shows others every day.
“He is just a wonderful person,” Kenny said. “Everybody that knows Jerry can’t help but love him.”
To show his love to others, he serves them. In the athletic department, Freestone willingly does tedious tasks with a smile. Steve Bushman, the equipment manager at BYU, said there isn’t anything that Freestone doesn’t do. He frequently does menial tasks, such as going through every jersey after basketball games to make sure there are not stains or blood before they go into the wash.
“He is great to do laundry,” Bushman said. “He is great to help get things out. He helps us when we issue gear to players, when we give them their warm-ups, shoes, shorts, socks and T-shirts and all the different things we do.”
The will to serve and the genuine love for others is Freestone’s greatest characteristic.
“We love Jerry,” Bushman said. “He’s a neat guy. We’re just happy to have him here, happy to see someone have a love and feeling for something and may not have all the same capabilities as everyone else, but is so willing to help us.”
Freestone did not learn service and hard work overnight. In school, Freestone struggled with bullying and being teased by others.
“There were a few kids who would tease him because he was different and give him a really hard time,” Kenny said. “From that Jerry has a real empathy for the outsider and has an interest caring about people who might not be part of the group.”
He also learned at an early age to not be discouraged by his learning difficulties, as he likes to call them.
“Whether it is mental disabilities, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, it’s not really a disability if people don’t think of it as a disability,” Freestone said. “Then it is just another label that people put on themselves or on others. A learning difficulty lessens the idea of that label. And so it’s just mixing tomatoes into the stew. It is just a stew full of problems, sometimes if you don’t like the tomatoes but you like the stew, you can just pull the tomatoes out. All you need to do is learn how to do that.”
That is exactly what Freestone did. He learned about himself, how to cope with his difficulties and then went to work on pulling them out. He was no longer ashamed.
“I got to a point in my life where I decided not to be ashamed of my disabilities,” Freestone said. “Because if I am not ashamed, I can help teach others not to be ashamed, in which they can move on better with themselves, as long as they’re willing to learn about themselves.”
Freestone holds a job, has graduated from school and has many friends and family who love him. He is optimistic about his future and still loves making people happy.
“I enjoy service,” Freestone said. “It is just something that is almost addictive I like to see people happy and smiling.”
Natalie Barrett, who is studying journalism at BYU, is a sports enthusiast and an avid writer.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company