A chance meeting with a few of his beloved Sea Eagles on the Gold Coast has lifted the spirits of young Hayden Kelly.
His mum, Sharon, sent the Sea Eagles a message on Friday night as the team prepared for their clash with the Gold Coast Titans.
“My kids have autism and not much interests them within the public life. They really want to meet Manly players, especially Jake and Tom, ’’ Sharon wrote.
“They have inherited their love of the Sea Eagles since they were born after much encouragement from my husband, Ben.”
Upon learning that Ben and six-year-old Hayden were at the game on Saturday, the Sea Eagles arranged for the father and son to meet the players following the win over the Titans.
In a thank you letter to the Club, Ben said he and his son were overwhelmed with the gesture.
“Hayden loves rugby league and plays with his mates at school every break he gets,’’ Ben wrote.
“When he heard the Manly Sea Eagles were going to be playing on the Gold Coast, his eyes lit up.
“Due to Hayden’s ASD, Sharon and I were very worried as he cannot handle big crowds easily. We decided to risk it and go to the game, which I haven’t been able to do for years.
“Hayden was a little champion during the game. He was awestruck to see his heroes playing in front of him.
“His face was beaming the whole time.
“To then get a message to come to the Manly tunnel after the game was just amazing. When he saw the amount of people there, I could see the ASD traits start, but to his credit, he held it together very well.
“He was so happy to just be going to the game but for Manly to then do what they did at short notice was just very heart-warming as a father to see.
“Meeting Jake, Tom and Daly Cherry-Evans was the best thing ever for him. The boys were very gracious and accommodating in talking to Hayden and having photos with him.
“Our family thanks you all from the bottom of our hearts for what you did for us.
“It will be an everlasting memory. Hayden grew so much in spirit that evening and it has given him a new perspective on how he sees life.
“You guys were awesome. Manly Forever.”