POOLVILLE, Texas — As dozens gather at the Holland Lake Softball Fields in Weatherford this weekend, they'll watch a 17-year-old with a zest for life trying to spread his infectious joy to everyone else. His mom says he can do that...because he's "awesome."
"He's my heart. He is truly a gift. He's amazing. He is awesome. He is my awesome Allen," said Erica Howell while watching her son on the basketball court with his teammates at Poolville High School in Parker County.
Allen Howell has autism. But as the oldest of six kids in the Howell household, he's also the barometer of "joy" at home and, according to his mom, wherever he goes.
"Other kids when they do something it's like yeah, that's cool. But to Allen it's like 'oh my God, yes, I did it,'" his mom said. "And then it's not just him happy but everybody else too."
"Yes they are nice to me," Allen said of his classmates at Poolville High, a school with just 159 students. "But I'm nice to them. I spread kindness and love."
"And when we see his ability to bring the joy in one room," Erica Howell said, "why not let everybody else feel this joy?"
So this weekend in Weatherford at the Holland Lake Softball Fields, they will hold the 2nd annual AUsome Allen Foundation Benefit Softball Tournament. The weekend event raises money and awareness, not for Allen, but for other teens to fund their trips to summer camps and to give them their own day in the sun.
The foundation has also been gifted several motorized wheelchairs they hope to deliver to families most in need.
"Awesome" is spelled with an "AU" for the autism that his mom says does not define or limit her son.
"Our foundation is all about making special needs feel as amazing as they make us," she said. "That Allen is absolutely awesome and perfect and so are special needs. They all need that and we want to spread that joy and happiness like they do."
"I always make them happy when I'm around," Allen said of his friends.
"He's perfect. His autism is perfect. Allen is perfect," his mom said. "His autism is what makes him who he is and, really, what makes him absolutely awesome."
"He just puts things in perspective for us," said Poolville High School Athletic Director Steven Stegall. Allen is included in all team activities on both the baseball and basketball teams. "He's kind of that common bond that's really pulled our community and our school together. He's part of Poolville now. He makes our school such a better place."
"It makes me cry. It makes me happy. It's all I've ever wanted," Erica Howell said. "They include him in all of that. And as a mom, who doesn't like seeing their kid happy?"
By the way, the Poolville High School mascot is a Monarch. Not a Monarch butterfly. Allen, his family will tell you, doesn't need to change into something else. Poolville Monarchs are lions and kings. Just like, they believe, "AUsome Allen" already is.
"It's a feeling of self-confidence. And Allen's self-confidence has soared," Erica Howell said. "If you feel sorry for Allen I didn't do my job of explaining how awesome my son is!"
Awesomeness on display this weekend in Weatherford with a smiling 17-year-old waiting for the rest of us to follow his lead.