During fifth period physical education class at Lakeside Elementary School, the two dodgeball captains had the unpleasant task of deciding when to pick the disabled student.
Ellie Fitzgerald, 10, lives with cerebral palsy. She stood out in the lineup, her orthotics painfully visible to the entire class. She tried not to make eye contact with anyone.
The class waited with bated breath as the captains, John Martin, 10, and Stephanie Nelson, 9, began picking. They hoped to hit that sweet spot where nobody would make a big deal out of it.
“We can’t pick her last,” said Martin, immediately picking his best friends for his team. “But it’s weird to pick her too early, ‘cause we all know.”
Last week Fitzgerald had been picked third for softball. This time it was important to pick her later and balance things out.
As the remaining students dwindled, Fitzgerald began fidgeting, and the rest of the class knew that the time had to be soon. The gym teacher watched with a stoic expression, nervously adjusting her whistle.
With only five students left, Nelson bit the bullet and picked Fitzgerald. The tension in the room immediately vanished as Fitzgerald stumbled to her team.