CEDAR FALLS – Beau Weichers did a couple of stretches and light jogs to get warmed up.
Then Weichers’ name was called, and it was his turn. He did a couple of nervous, jubilant hops before handing out a few high fives and fists bumps on his way to the discus cage.
With a large group of fellow competitors clapping and cheering behind him, Weichers heaved his disc and the crowd went wild, though his throw did not travel far.
But how far the Holmes Junior High seventh-grader threw his disc was the least important aspect of Tuesday’s middle school track meet at Cedar Falls High School.
Weichers has become an internet sensation, an inspiration to many, and he has no clue why.
It is exactly how his mom, Amanda, wants it.
Last week at his first track meet, Amanda Weichers made a TikTok video of Beau, who at 17 months old was diagnosed with epilepsy and partial agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition where part of the brain is missing. Beau was running in a 50-meter dash with teammates and athletes from junior highs across the Cedar Valley cheering him on.
The video went viral after Weichers shared it on her Facebook page.
Families from across the United States with children with special needs began to reach out to Amanda. The “Today Show” has called. A teenage athlete from a high school in suburban Nashville sent Amanda a message saying Beau has inspired their track team.
“People like to see good stories,” Amanda said. “I think they are tired of all the division that is going on in the country today. There was nothing fake that went on last week or tonight. Those boys were not putting on an act. There are a lot of emotions.”
“I think my favorite part of that video going viral is it has spread the message and shows how important inclusion is. It is valuable. It means a lot to our family. It means a lot to Beau, but it is more valuable for the students. I will continue to push for inclusion with other kids, and this is the reason why.”
After having a great experience at Hansen Elementary School, Amanda had trepidation as Beau advanced to junior high, fearing what he had at Hansen would not follow him to a new school.
But she has been blown away by Beau’s experience at Holmes.
“It has been amazing,” Weichers said. “Obviously, we started at Hansen Elementary, and they really laid a great foundation on what inclusion is all about. Inclusion was a priority there, and it was wonderful for us. Inclusion is huge. I always think if you can start inclusion at a young age you can create empathetic, understanding adults.”
For more than a decade, Amanda and her husband, Andy, have advocated for inclusion and awareness through Beau’s Beautiful Blessings. The nonprofit organization assists Iowa children with brain injuries, brain abnormalities and/or epilepsy, helping fund items many families can’t afford. In 2018, after raising more than $1 million, the organization helped build Place to Play Park at Greenhill Park on Algonquin and Ashworth Drives in Cedar Falls. Accessible to children with special needs, the park brings kids of all abilities together.
As Beau got older, the Weichers never imagined sports would be a part of his journey.
Beau loves sports, especially basketball, but Amanda feared the challenges of including him at the junior high level. She knew it would mean bringing in another para-educator, and it was an after-school thing. There would have to be adaptations for Beau.
She was surprised at the reaction to Beau’s dreams of participating.
“It was the teachers and the staff that came to me in the fall of last year and said, ‘Hey, we know Beau loves basketball and we’d love to have him on the team.’ I was like, ‘He can do that?” Amanda said. “As it was they had already talked to Beau about it and it was a ‘yep’ from him.”
Beau has a para-educator, Amber Gordon, who followed him from Hansen Elementary to Holmes, his day-to-day rock in school. In the afternoons Hannah Becker picks up with his athletic competition.
“This is the favorite part about my job,” Becker said. “I enjoy seeing how all the kids interact with him and just the fact that he is being involved as much as he is. It is great to a part of it. He enjoys being around people and hanging with his teammates.”
Beau participated in every practice and played in every seventh-grade home basketball game this winter. His teammates and opponents allowed him to shoot and score.
“He is so courageous,” said Eric Rosburg, Holmes Junior High associate principal and activities director. “He just goes out there and does his best and just loves it. His smile is infectious. He has helped our culture in a difficult year. It is great to see our students do such a great job.
“He has affected our culture because we have been able to see what he can do. He does such a nice job of going out there and doing it with his teammates. He is their teammate. I think everybody takes notice of that. I think they recognize his courage. You see it in the hallway with them high fiving and celebrating him. He puts a smile on everybody’s face because he is always happy. He has inspired us to be better people, and our kids have recognized how nice he always is and that nice matters.”
The Weichers and the Beau’s Beautiful Blessings organization will continue to advocate for inclusion and provide assistance to families with Beau’s similar needs.
They hope the past week and the entire year with Beau and his athletic participation shows other school districts it can be done.
“You would think it happens in every school district, but it doesn’t,” Amanda said. “We have to make it so every student in all districts are made to feel the way Beau has been made to feel.
“Inclusion is important for Beau. It is more important each and every one of these kids standing here. I 100% believe that. There were kids here last week that witnessed what I filmed. They didn’t do anything special, they were just being a friend to Beau. It turned out to be one of their more memorable track meets they’ve ever had.”