Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

After Sammy's Big Day, Now What?

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

After Sammy's Big Day, Now What?

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

The big day finally arrived and Sammy Lomas sat backstage in his wheelchair as a teacher helped him put on his blue cap and gown. His mother and father kissed him on the cheek, smiled proudly, and then took their seats in the audience for the biggest moment of his life.

Soon Sammy's name was called, and his teacher, Brian Rauh, helped him walk across the stage until he reached Edwina Oliver, his principal, and Lori White, superintendent of schools. He held out his hand, was awarded a diploma, and at age 22 became an official graduate of Oak Park School in Sarasota.

Yes, May 21 turned out to be quite a day, and since there will be no college graduation in Sammy's future, no wedding, no children of his own, it was his biggest day.

Sammy had a huge party at his house after the ceremony, with relatives arriving from around the country. His parents gave him a hammock and an iPod and a congratulatory cake with a big "S" on it - - the "S" stood for "Superman."

Sammy was born with Phelan-McDermit Syndrome, a rare chromosomal deletion disorder. At the time of his birth he was only the eighth person in the world diagnosed with what's also known as 22q13 Syndrome. Now there are around 1,600 people diagnosed worldwide, and including Sammy, there are three in the area, and possibly two more.

Sammy's parents, Rich and Sue, moved from Naples so Sammy could attend Oak Park when he was young, and he went to the school for 17 roller-coaster years that still passed by in a blur. The school has been a major part of his life, and even the familiar car ride each morning excited him.

He took his first steps at Oak Park when he was 5, went swimming there, did horseback therapy, learned about music.

He went to prom with a date. The girl's parents drove the couple, and yes, that was Sammy's mother driving closely behind because she always gets nervous when he is in someone else's car.

One thing Oak Park couldn't do was make Sammy talk, though he had years of speech therapy. …

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