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A Roll Tide Kind of Saturday

Lindsey Hughey by Lindsey Hughey Additional Needs

Lindsey Hughey

Lindsey Hughey

I am a mom to a wonderful 3 year old girl with CP and Epilepsy. She is our only child right now, so she is our world.

For those who will read this post and do not personally know our family, we are from Tuscaloosa, Alabama (USA).

That’s right…. title town itself.

I am a University of Alabama grad and returned to my alma mater a little over a year ago as an employee.  As my husband and I dated through college, we loved the atmosphere of this town.

It is simply electric during football season on a home game Saturday. You can feel it in the air days before kickoff.

Even before my husband and I walked down the aisle, we knew Tuscaloosa would remain our home.

We wanted to raise our children in the college town we had grown to love.

We knew we wanted our kids to experience the atmosphere of a brisk autumn day in Bryant Denny Stadium with pom poms shaking in unison and everyone united with one common goal … winning.

We wanted our kids to know Big Al personally, to run freely on the quad after watching the elephant stomp, and to experience tailgating with family and friends.

We had visions of enjoying family events like the homecoming parade, trick or treating at the sorority houses, attending gymnastics meets on a Friday night or spending a Sunday afternoon at The Joe.

However, our introduction to parenting was nothing like we had imagined and this college town, at first, was just one reminder after another of that fact.

Being parents to a daughter with special needs made our life seem so different than everyone around us.

We did not know how to navigate outside our own home. At first it hurt too much seeing children our daughter’s age doing things she should be doing but couldn’t. But as time passed we learned to cope with those feelings, and we slowly began to venture out a little more.

We started tailgating every now and then with family and friends. And we even tried attending a football game for the first time in 2017, but it was not the best experience.

Our daughter’s limited visual input made it hard for her to understand why people started cheering spontaneously and why the band would start up out of nowhere.

We just didn’t know if it was something she could understand and enjoy.

By the time the 2018 football season rolled around, our daughter had grown so much that she was in a wheelchair.

So, when the opportunity to buy season tickets arose, we initially thought there would be no way. We were concerned about wheelchair access.

We were concerned about having to take in medical things like mic-keys, medicine, and formula. We were concerned about people and whether they would be accepting. We were concerned about the crowd noise.

But the stubbornness in me decided that we shouldn’t just write it off as an impossibility yet, and I started to do a little research.

I learned we could get wheelchair accessible seating and we would have a reasonably close parking space.

After a few calls, I found out that we’d be able to take in all our daughter’s medical supplies and there would be first responders at all games in case of emergency.

Thanks to the wonderful company my sister works for, we would have a place to tailgate with people that already knew our daughter and would welcome us with open arms.

Last, I found some ear muffs that could help cancel out some of the spontaneous noise.

It was starting to look doable. So, why not try?

That’s the conclusion we finally reached. Our daughter, despite her limitations, is a people person. She loves to socialize more than anything else.

What better way to encourage that than with 100,000 of your closest friends and family? We figured, worst case scenario, we would try it for a season.

If she hated it then we wouldn’t do it again.

This past fall, we attended four home football games. And she LOVED it!

Our experience could not have been better.

We found that most of our Alabama family are extremely nice and welcoming to our situation. Our seats were great, and we had no problems with accessibility.

We were a little surprised to find out that the University really had things figured out and everything worked well. The stadium event people and first responders were amazing.

We even started looking forward to seeing Ms. Nancy, the event concierge assigned to our section, each Saturday.

We also found that by the end of the season, our daughter no longer needed her ear muffs. She had grown accustom to the spontaneous noise of the stadium and even seemed to enjoy it.

This past football season was an amazing experience for our family.

It reiterated the reason why we love our college town and why we chose to grow our family here. Sure, our original vision never had a special needs child in it. But that is only because we did not know what a blessing that would be.

And if I am being honest, time has shown me in more ways than one that our future never really goes according to plan anyway.

What’s that saying? “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.”

It couldn’t be more true. While I’m still a major planner, life has shown me that to survive and be happy in this world, you and your plans have to be adaptable.

Sometimes you have to find a different way to accomplish the same goal. We are so thankful that over the years the University has adapted to the growing needs for handicap accessibility and does it so well.

We are also thankful for the family atmosphere the University brings to this town. We will forever be supporters of crimson and white.

Let’s bring home another championship to title town!

Roll tide!


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