Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver for the Florida State University football team, was touring a Florida middle school with other players this week when he noticed Bo Peske, an 11-year old with autism, eating alone in the school cafeteria. Rudolph sat down and chatted with Bo, while eating a couple slices of pizza. A school employee took a photo of the two at the table and gave it to his mom. His mom later shared the image on Facebook, along with a note about her appreciation of this small act of kindness.
The mom, Leah Paske, wrote, “A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son’ I replied ‘who is that?’ He said ‘FSU football player’, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I'm not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I'm happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn't have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”
Paske’s Facebook image was shared widely—more than 14,000 times in three days. It was discussed in Time, People, and BuzzFeed. Kathy Lee and Hoda chatted about the image on the Today Show. Perhaps all this attention to the needs of kids with autism will expand the number of lunchroom support groups for kids like Bo.