Friday, October 28, 2011

Adelaide's tragic role in the Halloween episode of American Horror Story

from Entertainment Weekly:


The first half of American Horror Story‘s Halloween episodes, discussed in EW’s cover story on the FX hit, aired this evening and jolted viewers wtih the shocking death of Adelaide (Jamie Brewer). Struck by a car while trick or treating as a “pretty girl,” Adelaide died despite her mother Contance (Jessica Lange) attempting to carry her body onto the Harmon property.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I think the biggest shock is that Addy is killed off. Why do that?RYAN MURPHY: Well, I think it was very important to the Jessica Lange character and you’ll see coming up, once her beloved child is taken away, she needs another child in her life, and the question is, Will that be Vivian’s child? And I also love the commentary that the writers came up with that only in death does Jessica Lange and the other characters realize that this girl was beautiful all along and, in fact, a very pretty girl. I love what that says about the world and I thought it was very powerful.

Is Addy definitely gone or will we see her ghost?  No, I think she was dead before she got to the spot (Harmon property).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jamie Foxx serenades his sister

from ET:

It was an uplifting night of glitz and glamour at the 2011 Be Beautiful, Be Yourself fashion show and fundraiser in Denver last Saturday as a crowd of 1,200 partied it up in style, all the while raising money for a good cause.
Jamie Foxx, who is no stranger to the yearly event, ensured the affair was a memorable one for sister DeOndra Dixon, performing an original composition (Love Brings Change) to his teary-eyed sister.
DeOndra, who was born with Down Syndrome, basked in the spotlight as the 2011 Ambassador for the foundation, which raised over $1 million for Down Syndrome research that night.
Music Icon Quincy Jones, John C. McGinley, Supermodel Beverly Johnson, and The Real Housewives of Orange County's Peggy Tanous also took part in the star-studded festivities.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Urge your Representative to attend an important briefing on Down syndrome

Email your Representative from the following states now! Urge him/her to attend an important briefing on Down syndrome research.

Email your Representative below and urge him/her to attend a briefing of the US Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus on Down Syndrome research which is being held on Tuesday, October 25th at 4:30 pm in room 121 of the US House of Representatives Cannon Office Building. This briefing is being organized by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) who is a co-chair of the Down Syndrome Caucus and herself a parent of a child with Down syndrome.

The briefing will assist the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus in developing policy priorities by providing a comprehensive overview of the state of research in Down syndrome and other rare disorders by demonstrating how the study of rare disorders will inform more common disorders.   Presenters will discuss the unique biology of Down syndrome, current research efforts in Down syndrome, including NIH and privately funded efforts, and barriers to Down syndrome research.  By improving awareness of Down syndrome research, presenters will be able to show that an improved research infrastructure will provide opportunity for translational and collaborative research that will not only benefit the lives of people with Down syndrome, but the general public as well.

Congressional Targets:
  • Anders Crenshaw – (R- FL);
  • Vern Buchanon – FL;
  • Nita  Lowey – (D- NY)
  • Carolyn McCarthy – (D-NY)
  • Lois Capps –(D- CA)
  • Susan Davis –(D- CA)
  • Dian DeGette –(D- CO)
  • Michael Rogers –(R- MI)
  • Michael Burgess – (R-TX)
  • Ruben Hinojosa – (D-TX)
from the NDSS and NDSC

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kayla has the most beautiful eyes in South Carolina!

People always told Michelle Helferich of Summerville that her daughter has pretty eyes.
Now it's official.

Kayla Helferich, 8, a student at Windsor Hill Art Infused Elementary, was named the state winner for Prevent Blindness America's "Most Beautiful Eyes" contest by receiving the most votes online in September.

The contest, which was open to children up to age 17, was to bring attention to eye health, according to Prevent Blindness.

"Kayla has Down syndrome, and one of the characteristics of Down syndrome is Brushfield spots in her eyes," said Michelle Helferich. "They look like white sparkles, and people always comment about how pretty her eyes are."

Helferich, who is also the mother of Lucas, 3, and the wife of Joe, who is in the Air Force, writes a blog called Big Blueberry Eyes.

"Somebody from Prevent Blindness contacted me and asked if I wanted to put the info about the contest on my blog," she said. "It sounded like a good cause, so I said yes. Then I thought, 'I'm going to send my daughter's picture in, too.' It seems like there are always negative perceptions about Down syndrome, and I thought this was something that's in a positive light."

Kayla will receive a pair of Eagle Eyes Optics Astro and Rocketeer Sunglasses for kids and a Kids' Fisher Space Pen. She also advances to the final round, which will be decided by a panel of celebrity judges.

Three finalists and their families will go to Chicago for the Prevent Blindness America Annual Awards Banquet on Nov. 18, where the overall winner will be announced. The winner gets a $25,000 college scholarship and will be the face of the "Star Pupils" program, the national children's eye health and safety program from Prevent Blindness America.

Friday, October 21, 2011

some Utah doctors are cautious about using Sequnom's MaterniT21 test

Salt Lake City is one of 20 national launching sites for a new blood test to detect Down syndrome in the womb. But some Utah doctors are cautious about using it, including the Salt Lake City physician who participated in a study showing how the blood test works.

San Diego-based company Sequnom, Inc., launched the MaterniT21 test this week, touting it as a way to better screen for Down syndrome and reduce the need for invasive diagnostic tests that pose a risk of miscarriage.

Using blood drawn from the mother, the new test measures circulating cell-free DNA to detect Trisomy 21, the most common chromosomal anomaly that causes Down syndrome. It can be done as early as 10 weeks with results in about 10 days, according to the company.

The test was launched in 20 cities — large metropolitan areas and those with high birth rates like Salt Lake City. The test must be ordered by a physician, and it’s meant for women at high risk of having a baby with the disorder — those who are 35 years and older or who have an ultrasound showing fetal anomalies, for example.

The company estimates the test would cost insured patients $235.

But Intermountain Healthcare facilities will not be using MaterniT21 yet, said physician Nancy Rose, director of reproductive genetics for the hospital system, even though Intermountain and Salt Lake City-based ARUP participated in a study of the blood test that Sequnom is using to bolster claims that it works.

"I don’t think it’s ready for prime time," said Rose, noting that she participated in the industry-funded study because it was overseen by Brown University. "This study has proven that it works in a certain population of patients, but that’s a long way from actually implementing it in your clinic. What does it cost? Will insurance cover it? What do we know about its effectiveness? If someone screens negative, is that good enough?"

Rose noted that the new test doesn’t detect other chromosomal abnormalities like spina bifida, while traditional screening tests do. And it hasn’t been proven useful among low-risk women, the majority of pregnant women, she said.

The study, published this week in Genetics in Medicine, included 4,600 high-risk women from 27 sites (including 78 Utahns). Among the 1,600 women on whom the genetic test was used, MaterniT21 detected Down syndrome with 99 percent accuracy with one false positive and two false negatives.

The fact that there were only three wrong results shows "that this test is actually ready for prime time," said physician Mathias Ehrich, Sequenom’s senior director of research and development. He acknowledged some details need to be worked out, including whether it will work on heavier women (13 samples couldn’t be analyzed because the percentage of fetal DNA in the mothers’ blood was too low).

Still, "It’s a young but not immature field," he said. "The test has certainly withstood all the necessary validations you need in order to implement it."

Existing screening tests — which combine ultrasound with maternal blood tests — have lower accuracy rates with higher false positive rates, according to the study. That means more women may go on to get amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, the study said. Those tests, which involve sampling amniotic fluid or placental tissue, can cause miscarriages in up to one of 200 procedures.

Ehrich said women now can take the MaterniT21 test before the invasive tests if the screening tests show they are at risk. If the genetic test comes back negative, he said doctors would "most likely" not recommend an amnio or CVS. If MaterniT21 is positive, women who want confirmation would need one of the invasive tests.

Physician Robert Silver, chief of the University of Utah’s maternal fetal medicine program for high-risk women, sees value in using MaterniT21 as a second screen. He noted that women who seek confirmation aren’t always doing it to terminate the pregnancy. They want to rule out a problem or prepare themselves emotionally for a child with special needs.

Women, he noted, are anxious about the invasive diagnostic tests. "The emotional baggage of potentially harming a normal baby is very difficult for families. There’s a lot of potential and certainly a desire to have a test like this," he said. "The downside is the test has not been perfected."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

adult Down syndrome center hosts new construction ceremony

Advocate Medical Group recently hosted a beam-signing celebration to mark the construction of a one-story medical office building on the southwest corner of the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital campus in Park Ridge, Ill. By hosting this ceremony, AMG honored the construction team for their quality work, the architects for their vision, and all of our associates, nurses, physicians, volunteers and patients who helped in the planning process and will occupy the building.

The building will be the new home of Advocate Medical Group’s Adult Down Syndrome Center (ADSC). It will include more exam rooms, a community center area and a number of special features to better accommodate the needs of individuals with Down syndrome and their families. Building completion is planned for the end of first quarter 2012.

Pictured at the event signing the beam that will become a permanent part of the building are (from left to right): Advocate Medical Group vice president of operations Cynthia Job, Advocate Medical Group president James Dan, M.D., and Advocate Medical Group’s chief medical officer Kevin McCune, M.D. Also in attendance were: physician leaders; patients; donors; staff; Mike Daly, chief of staff for Senator Dick Durbin; Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski; and Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz.

Advocate Medical Group’s Adult Down Syndrome Center is the oldest and largest clinic of its kind in the nation. It provides a full range of services including primary medical care, nutrition counseling and psychosocial services to adolescents and adults with Down syndrome.

Advocate Medical Group is a physician-led medical group providing primary care, specialty services, medical imaging, outpatient services and community-based medical practices throughout Chicagoland and Central Illinois. One of the state’s largest medical groups with more than 800 primary and specialty care physicians in 90 locations, Advocate Medical Group is part of Advocate Health Care, one of the leading, integrated health care systems in the nation.

More information can be found at or by calling 1.800.3.ADVOCATE (1.800.323.8622).

More on Advocate Medical Group's Adult Down Syndrome Center:

Thomas Jones: providing inspiration for others with Down syndrome

from CTV Calgary:

In many countries, people with Down syndrome are marginalized.

A Calgary man with the condition was on a vacation in Mexico when he noticed how little was being done for people with the syndrome.

He decided to do something about it.

Thomas Jones is a 41-year-old Calgarian with Down syndrome. He knows how fortunate he is to be living here.

Jones holds a place in his heart for others with Down syndrome, especially those in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"People are kinda poor and I wanna raise money from that," says Jones. "That's why I'm doing my speeches."

Tom's caregiver, Roberta Groff, says Jones compassion came out of the inequality he saw.

"He has a job, he has everything in life that he would want and he looked and he thought that these people have nothing," says Groff. "So he thought it would be good for him to get involved."

After seeing how little the families in Puerto Vallarta were able to do for their loved ones, Jones set up a foundation to raise money to help.

He makes speeches to groups in Calgary in order to raise money.

When he travels to Mexico he also makes speeches, through an interpreter, to encourage families of children with Down syndrome.

"When I'm making my speech it's helping them to understand who I am," says Jones.

"When I saw him in Puerto Vallarta making a speech to these people that all have children with Down syndrome, I don't think there was a dry eye in the whole group," says Groff.

Jones has also teamed up with other volunteers from Centre Street church to pack suitcases with new clothing to send to families in Mexico. They'll outfit 100 families this fall.

As for Jones, he'll continue speaking on behalf of his foundation to raise money and encouraging people who have Down syndrome.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ricky Gervais accused of mocking people with Down syndrome on Twitter

Ricky Gervais

from The Christian Post:

Controversial comedian and outspoken atheist Ricky Gervais is being accused by tweeters of making fun of people with Down's syndrome after posting pictures of himself with contorted facial expressions and captions using a slang term for people afflicted with the disorder.
The outrage was ignited after Gervais posted the pictures with captions such as "getting monged-up" and "good monging everyone," the Daily Mail reported. In Britain, the word "mong," short for "mongol," is known to be a derogatory term for people with Down's syndrome.
Gervais' actions caught the attention of fellow comedians and disability rights groups who blasted the creator of "The Office" for his perceived insensitivity.
Comedian Richard Herring compared Gervais' use of the word to using racist or homophobic slurs and complained that comedians who would never dare use such risky language regarding race or sex, yet seem comfortable using slurs against the disabled community.
I think many comics are guilty of using [slurs against disabled people] as convenient and humourless punchlines," Herring wrote on his blog. "I think they do equate with those racial and homophobic epithets that are rarely heard these days."
"They do confirm the stereotype of disabled people and contribute to their further isolation in a world that already tries to pretend they don't exist," he added.
Frank Buckley, of Down Syndrome Education International, agreed with Herring's comments. "Most would consider it as offensive as comparable terms of abuse referring to racial background or sexual orientation," he said, according to The Sun.
Alica Maynard, chairperson of Scope, a cerebral palsy charity group, said that it is necessary to be aware of the effect that the words one uses has on others, according to the Daily Mail.
"No one wants to see language policed," Maynard said. "But asking people to question their use of words – whether it is the words they use to describe race, sexual preference or disability – forces them to think about their assumptions."
She added: "We changed our name from Spastics Society to Scope in the 90s. For disabled people 'Spastic' was a negative term that was no longer relevant, as a charity we wanted to portray a positive image of disabled people living the lives they want to."
"We don't fool ourselves that just because the word 'spastic' may have gone out of polite conversation that discrimination no longer exists. But if taking a stand about the use of a particular word leads to others questioning their assumptions then we are on the right path," Maynard said.
The Daily Mail reported that the Down's Syndrome Association has spoken to Gervais directly about the matter and that they were dealing with it privately.

Pujols Family Foundation's annual prom

from KSDK:

While Albert Pujols took the field tonight, kids with down syndrome took to the dance floor in Chesterfield. It was the Pujols Family Foundation's annual prom.

It was the night guest had been waiting for: the red carpet, the dresses, the photos.

"This is like the awesome amazing night ever," said Kathleen Mertz.

"This party's going down," said Ethan Schroeder.

And was it ever. From the first song, the dancing never stopped except for the occasional baseball update.

The band did a little play by play announcing tonight. That way, even though Albert Pujols couldn't be here, everyone got to keep tabs on exactly how he was doing.

"Everybody here understands, I mean Albert has this day job," said Director of the Pujols Family Foundation Todd Perry.

"He's playing a game tonight and we're having a prom. And we're all rooting for him," said Megan Leighton.

So while Albert Pujols couldn't be there in person, prom guests did plenty of celebrating in his honor.

"I just hope it will be the best night for Albert's life to beat the Brewers and go all the way," said Scott Carron.

"We'll be checking on the score. And I'm sure he'll be thinking about us too," said parent Karen Cunningham.

The guests cheered on the Cardinals with each score update and they made some prom memories.

And while it was a big night at Busch Stadium, it seemed like a win here too, courtesy of the Pujols family.

"Thank you so much for this wonderful evening, wonderful night and thank you for your kind hearts," Leighton.

Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre, have a child with Down Syndrome, though she's not quite old enough for the prom. The event is for people 16 and up.

About 500 people attended the prom this year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sequenom's MaterniT21 prenatal test

from Bloomberg:

Sequenom Inc. (SQNM) said its prenatal test for Down syndrome will be available in 20 U.S. cities today, two years after an earlier effort was delayed because employees mishandled research data.

The blood test is accurate in detecting Trisomy 21, the genetic chromosomal abnormality that most commonly causes Down syndrome, 99.1 percent of the time as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy, the San Diego-based company said in a statement. The test, and others that will be able to identify genetic abnormalities early in pregnancies, will alter the debate over abortion, said Art Caplan, director of the center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“For many people this test makes it morally, emotionally and psychologically easier to have an abortion,” Caplan said in an interview.

Caplan said future prenatal tests may be able to indicate if the fetus had biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, or breast cancer, or other diseases. Those tests will raise questions about what issues will trigger potential parents to choose an abortion. A survey published last month in the American Journal of Medical Genetics showed that only 4 percent of parents with Down Syndrome children regretted having them.

“Ethically, we are now starting to see the shift in the issue of what counts as a medical disorder, what’s significant enough to test for, what’s a genetic disability or just a difference,” he said. “Many in the Down syndrome community would say it’s just a difference.”

from the New York Times:

“The number of American women who will have to grapple with this information prenatally will substantially increase,” said Dr. Brian G. Skotko of the Down syndrome program at Children’s Hospital Boston. His sister has Down syndrome, he said, and he pointed out that these tests could encourage more people to end their pregnancies, causing a decline in the numbers of people with the condition and leading to diminished support for them.

Sequenom’s test, called MaterniT21, would be ordered by doctors, not directly by consumers. All samples will be sent to Sequenom’s laboratory for analysis. The test is expected to cost about $1,900, about as much as amniocentesis.

The company said that privately insured women would have to pay $235 out of pocket, with the company assuming the risk of getting insurers to pay the rest. It is not clear how willing insurers will be to cover this test.

Down syndrome series on KPBS

from KPBS:

KPBS is kicking off a week-long series on Down syndrome. The topic was suggested to us by one of our listeners.

We'll hear from parents, discover available resources, find out why advocacy is so important and look at clinical trials underway right here in San Diego.

Today we're joined by San Diego parent Colette Cosky (San Diego mother of two, runs Downright Awesome blog) who learned her eight-month-old son Dexter had Down syndrome, right after his birth. .
Down Syndrome Series Overview: An indepth look at how families are making a difference, resources available and clinical trials underway right here in San Diego
  1. Monday: A San Diego parent shares her story.
  2. Tuesday: Growing Up With Down Syndrome
  3. Wednesday: Support, Resources and Early Intervention
  4. Thursday: Treatments and Clinical Trials, Policy In Play
Midday Edition airs weekdays at noon on KPBS Radio

Monday, October 17, 2011

Make Sure Every Student Has a Fully Prepared Teacher on Day 1!

from Susan Goodman, NDSC Governmental Affairs Newsline:

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to mark-up a bill to reauthorize ESEA (formerly known as No Child Left Behind). At the markup, critical amendments will be offered by Senators that will have a powerful impact to meaningful high quality instruction and to prepared and effective teachers.

Your Senators Need to Hear From You Today!

Please take 5 minutes to contact your U.S. Senators and members of the Senate HELP Committee concerning the following amendments:

1. ASK YOUR SENATOR TO VOTE NO on Isakson Amendment because students with disabilities deserve access to the same education as other students!  The Isakson amendment would remove the limits on how many students with disabilities can be counted as making adequate results or sufficient progress using less challenging systems of standards and assessments.
  • This amendment would allow schools to take millions of students with disabilities off track for a regular high school diploma as early as 3rd grade when assessment decisions are made in schools, relegating them to lower career and college expectations - simply because they receive special education services.

  • These amendments will call for an end to the practice of congregating the least prepared teachers in the highest need schools by strengthening the definition of a highly qualified teacher.

  • S. 1250 would water down requirements for teacher preparation programs by creating separate and lower standards for preparation programs that prepare teachers for the neediest students. Oppose this amendment to end the practice of placing the least qualified teachers in the highest-need schools.

Adapted From Action Alert, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Senators on the HELP Committee:

Tom Harkin (IA)(COMMITTEE CHAIR): (202) 224-3254 (DC) (515) 284-4574 (Des Moines); web site contact site:

Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA):(866) 802-2833 (DC); (215) 405-9660 (Philadelphia);

Jeff Merkley (OR): (202) 224-3753; (503) 326-3386;

Al Franken (MN): (202) 224-5641; (651) 221-1016;

Barbara Mikulski (MD): (202) 224-4654; (410) 962- 4510;

Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): (202) 224- 2921; (401) 453-5294

Jeff Bingaman (NM): (202) 224-5521 (DC); (505) 346-6601 (NM);

Patty Murray (WA): Phone: (202) 224-2621 (DC); (866) 481-9186 (Seattle);

Kay Hagan (NC): 202-224-6342; 919-856-4630;

Richard Blumenthal (CT): 202-224-2823; 860-258-6940

Michael B. Enzi (WY) (RANKING REPUBLICAN): (888) 250-1879; (307) 739-9507;

Mark Kirk (IL): 202-224-2854; 312-886-3506;

Orrin Hatch (UT): (202) 224-5251; (801) 524-4380;

John McCain (AZ): (202) 224-2235; (602) 952-2410;

Pat Roberts (KS): (202) 224-4774; (785) 295-2745;

Lisa Murkowski (AK): (202) 224-6665; (907) 271- 3735;

Johnny Isakson (GA): (202) 224-3643;

football player with Down syndrome inspires, makes social transformation


The Yulee High School football team calls it the "victory" formation. Every football team has one. And every football coach goes into every game hoping to use it.

It's typically the most mundane play of the game. A quarterback kneeling down. The final seconds ticking off the clock. The victory becoming official.

But it's also a play that inevitably unleashes emotions that have been building. And on many levels, that was the case two weeks ago at Jackson High School. With the Yulee Hornets leading 40-26, Coach Bobby Ramsay went over to the player wearing jersey No. 30.

"Jake," he said. "Put your helmet on."

Jacob Martin, a 5-foot-4 and 143-pound senior, slipped on his helmet. His coach helped him buckle his chin strap and put in a mouthpiece.

"What if he gets hit?" other players asked.

"Well, that's why he has pads on," Ramsay said with a smile.

Jake's sister, Hannah, and other members of the band broke into cheers, which spread into the stands.

As he ran onto the field, lining up at wide receiver near the Yulee sideline, his parents were among those standing. Through the years, Jack and Kelley Martin had been in many stands for many games. Jake's older brother, Zach, used to play linebacker for the Hornets and was in the middle of plenty of big plays. But it's safe to say none was quite like this one.

The victory formation.

The fans chanting Jake's name.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. You don't even know what this means to a mom who was told different milestones wouldn't be met by him, that he probably won't be able to jump or ride a bicycle ...,' " Kelley Martin said. "And yet here's a boy who's out there because of the worth his coach sees in him - and the whole stadium recognizes that."

You undoubtedly already figured out that Jacob Martin is different from his teammates. Some of them practically were born to play football. He was born with Down syndrome. And his parents were told not to expect him to play much of anything.

But he's always been energetic and active. In a family of four kids - three boys, one girl - the two older brothers grew up playing together. And Kelley Martin swears that it wasn't until Zach got into middle school that he realized his little brother had some limitations.

Jake still doesn't see it that way.

He used to eat breakfast most mornings with Ramsay in the school cafeteria. And last year he kept telling the coach that he was going to play football. He couldn't see any reason why he wouldn't play.

He had spent quite a bit of time around the team when his brother was playing. He wore a jersey with Zach's number, stood on the sideline and helped out. When the Hornets would score, he would drop and do push-ups with the mascot.

So his dad, an English teacher at Yulee High, and Ramsay began talking. And in the spring, they went ahead and got him equipment.

"I think I was probably a little more worried than I should have been," Ramsay said before a recent practice. "When he gets out there, he really is one of the guys. They pressure him to keep up. And they'll mess with him when he spends too much time talking to the water girls."
The coach looks over at Jake, who is sitting next to him, and teases him.

"He's a fan of the water girls," he says. "I have to get on you sometimes, don't I?"

Jake grins. Hannah adds with a laugh, "Jake knows no strangers." The coach says that Jake doesn't eat breakfast with him anymore.

"Since he's become a member of the team, he blows me off and sits with the players," he says. "Initially, he was kind of a shy kid. But he's really adjusted."

To say the least. There has been a social transformation. And not just for Jake. For his teammates. Yes, he's different from them. But he's also like them.

His mother recalls a game a few weeks ago. She was sitting in the stands, watching the other boys interacting with her son. One of the star players plopped down on the bench next to him. He put his arm around Jake. She was struck by how natural it seemed, how the other player wasn't acting like Jake was scary or weird. They were just teammates, sitting together on the bench, a victory formation in a mom's playbook.

He can't run as fast, or throw a ball as far, as most of his teammates. But nobody is more animated. His pregame speeches are the stuff of Hornet lore. Ask Ramsay what Jake said in a recent one and he says, "I'm not exactly sure. It was loud, though."

When they played a game on ESPNU a few weeks ago, all of the players were asked to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions was "Who's the funniest guy on the team?"

Without consulting each other, nearly all of them answered: Jake Martin.

At a recent practice, he's the last one out of the locker room. He charges onto the field yelling, "Come on guys! Play hard!"

He wanders off for a while, spending some time with the water girls, prompting a couple of his teammates to get on him.

"You going to strap up, Jake?" senior Jake Litecky says. "Come on buddy. Come put somebody on his back."

He ribs his teammates. They rib him back. And eventually Jake Martin does strap up, putting on a helmet which says "JLW" and "9-8-11" on the back. All of the Hornets' helmets do.

It's in memory of Jessica West, a sophomore who committed suicide. Her death shook the students, teachers, administrators and a football coach who lost his older brother to suicide. And one of the messages West wrote on her Myspace page last summer carries extra weight when you look at what is playing out on this football field.

"Don't laugh at me," she wrote. "Don't call me names; don't get pleasure from my pain; in God's eyes we're all the same; some day we'll all have perfect wings."

There are guys on the Yulee team who are blessed with arms and legs made for football. But for the ESPN game, Ramsay made Jake one of the four captains, which meant he went out to midfield for the coin toss.

The Hornets lost 49-7 to Buford, Ga., a national powerhouse. But then they went on a three-game winning streak, setting the stage for something better than a pregame ritual. The end-of-game play.

Jake was on the field for the final play against Jackson and the final two plays against Fernandina Beach. He left the field celebrating like he had won the Super Bowl.

Although they lost Friday night to First Coast, his coach has dreams of figuring out a way to get No. 30 a touchdown. Maybe for senior night.

He'll be pumped up that night. So don't be surprised if Jake ends up launching into an animated pregame speech. And don't be surprised if he's surrounded by a bunch of teammates who are feeding off his enthusiasm, not only accepting his differences, but embracing them.

Talk about a victory formation.