By:Wesley Mooney (Beta-Omega, Colorado College)
Moving slowly closer toward the glimmering lane, Todd Martz pauses at the line, and using both hands he lowers the ball to knee-height, swings it back between his legs, and with the might of a lumberjack, grunts and thrusts the twelve pound bowling ball towards the cowering pins. The ball moves slowly, and unlike the powerful hurls of a professional, the holes in the ball are not blurred by the speed. Like the second hand on a clock, the holes rotate around the circumference of the sphere methodically, and though the lanes on either side are full, nobody is bowling. We are awaiting the result of Todd's final roll. The ball taps the pins politely, and one by one, they graciously fall until no more are standing.
With his back turned to his audience, Todd raises both hands in victory. I know what's coming. Todd turns, faces his friends, and it begins. First, his eyes squint, as if they were in the sunlight, then his mouth stretches laterally across his cheeks, and beneath his goatee, there it is, the only smile I've ever known that can brighten a dimly lit room. Even when lights are low those squinted eyes shine behind the glare of his reflective glasses. His stretched out goatee and broad grin always brings a smile to those in Todd's presence. Todd's gallery of friends and brothers erupts with thunderous, encouraging cheers of support. Todd relishes his success by whooping and throwing his hands towards the sky.
Possessing innocence, quick-witted humor, and a non-judgmental nature, Todd has the unique ability to entertain and interact while bringing an uncorrupted outlook to every situation. He's a welcome and gracious guest at any table, and his charisma is so electric he makes friends in line at McDonald's.
Todd Martz is my fraternity brother. For the past two school years he has been my best friend and roommate. Living with the big man on campus has perks. We check out girls together, we sit at the bar and sip beers on the weekend, and we play side by side in intramural sports. I know Todd so well that sometimes I answer his question before he asks, and one time he ordered my food for me at P.F. Chang's China Bistro because he knew what I would ask for. When we watch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," we quiz each other during commercials just to keep ourselves sharp in case Regis calls. He's been like my brother these past two years. Not just like any of my other Kappa Sigma brothers, no, Todd and I are closer. Todd's the only brother who I'll wake up in the morning, or help shave, or pick out his clothes. My other fraternity brothers can do those things by themselves, and for the most part Todd can too. But most days Todd needs a little help with the finer domestic arts, like shoe tying, that most folks take for granted.
Brother working Todd at Wooglins Cafe
You see Todd has Down syndrome. This makes him unique in my chapter as the only one of our brothers with a disability. He's also unique among the many thousands of Kappa Sigs in this country, because he's the only Kappa Sigma to have Down syndrome. Todd is unique among anyone who's even been stereotyped with paddle wielding, beer guzzling meatheads whose lives supposedly revolve around bikinis and brew, because he is the only person with Down syndrome to ever be initiated into a national fraternity. Furthermore, he's disproved the "frat boy" stereotype and established that a fraternity member can be anything but an oversexed, ego-driven kegmeister.
His walk is unhurried and is characterized by "the waddle", the way in which Todd swings his hip from side to side in order to manage his belly within his 4'8" frame. His facial features are small, yet distinct, and he almost always sports facial hair in some form, whether it is a goatee, mustache, or beard. His speech is quick, and somewhat slurred. We're patient to understand him, and after one gets used to hearing Todd, he seems to speak more clearly every day. Todd was 24 years old and had been a member of the Beta-Omega Chapter of Kappa Sigma at The Colorado College for three years, when I became a pledge in 1996.
I had never known anyone with a severe disability, but I've always believed that people with disabilities were very special. I remember when I was younger someone told me something that I never forgot. I don't remember whether it was in Sunday school, or preschool, or maybe it was when they integrated my elementary school with a special education program, and they brought the special-ed students around to the classrooms to meet the other kids, but nevertheless, I was young. And despite how long ago I heard this, it always stuck with me. I was told that when people with disabilities passed on and went to heaven they became angels. When I die and go to heaven I won't be an angel; I will still be myself. But according to my teaching, someone with mental and physical disabilities such as Todd will be rewarded in Heaven. He is favored in God's eyes and therefore will be healthy and strong, and sit closer to God someday as an angel. Now I don't know if that's true, having not been to Heaven, and I can't remember who told me that, but I like it. I think Todd deserves that.
As a freshman I'd seen Todd around campus and at the Chapter House, and when I inquired about Todd's story, the brothers were always anxious to share.
On June 16, 1972 Todd was born to Harvey and Judy Martz of Colorado Springs. Harvey, a Methodist minister, and Judy, who at that time was a high school English teacher (and later founded Peak Parent Center, a non-profit organization for parents of children with developmental disabilities), knew that their first child would bring about some change in their life. Long nights, financial crunches, and hectic schedules would soon affect the new family. However, they never anticipated the way in which their newborn son would impact their lives, and the lives of nearly everyone who comes in contact with him. Todd's childhood was similar to most young boys. He was a Cub Scout, played with neighborhood kids, and with his younger sister, Meredith.
"We wanted Todd to live a normal life." Judy said. The Martz's believed in inclusion rather than segregation and pushed for Todd to be mainstreamed with others who were without disabilities. As a child, Todd attended mainstream swimming classes, even though there may have been classes available for the disabled. He still swims and his stroke is somewhat unconventional. He pushes himself and can complete ten laps in the swimming pool.
In 1991, Todd graduated from high school. His class gave him a standing ovation at the ceremony. I saw a photo of this. It hangs on a wall in the front entryway of the Martz's Highlands Ranch, Colorado home. Along that wall are pictures of Todd in various stages of life. One is with his family, and several are of Todd in class at his high school, already sporting a Colorado College shirt. The graduation photo is proudly displayed next to Todd's high school diploma and the diploma of his younger sister. In the photo Todd is grinning electrically and lunging forward to shake a hand and receive his diploma. In the background a few students are beginning to rise and applaud.
"Todd was the only member of his class to receive a standing ovation," Judy told me.
The Colorado Rockies welcome
Brother Todd Martz and Kappa
"That was special," recalled Harvey. "We were very proud of Todd, and it was obvious how many close friends Todd had made." After graduation most of Todd's friends were heading to college. College, however was not a possibility for Todd, at least as a student. After public school, most children with developmental disabilities either live at home, or in group-homes. The Martz's and officials from Colorado College found that Todd could work on campus and interact with people his own age.
Todd soon became a part of the Colorado College community. Friendly and talkative, Todd would hang out with students, and they were always genuinely interested in Todd. He washed dishes in the cafeteria, so he often became a guest at random lunch tables. Kappa Sigmas began hanging out with Todd as a philanthropy project on weekdays after Todd got off work. Two years later, Todd was a full member of Kappa Sigma. The Kappa Sigs enjoyed Todd's company around campus, so they decided to pledge and initiate Todd into the fraternity.
When Todd attended the preferential banquet during Rush period for those men who had received bids, he whispered into the ear of one of the brothers, "I'm going to be a Kappa Sig!" Todd knew that these men were an elite group and he understood that they were including him because they recognized that he was a special young man who had something to contribute to the chapter. During the drive home that night, Todd, who at that time was sometimes reserved with his emotions, unexpectedly exclaimed to his mother, "I'm so happy!"
Todd understands what it means to be in a fraternity. He understands that not everyone is a Kappa Sig. Showing a great appreciation for our ritual, he knows that there is an appropriate time and place for fraternal business.
Beta-Omega Composite 1997-1998
Brother Todd is fourth row, third from the right
"We were skeptical when the Kappa Sigs asked us if Todd could be a pledge," Judy tells. "I thought 'yeah right'. When I see Todd's picture in these composites on the wall with all of the other members, I'll be convinced." Six composite photos on the walls of the Kappa Sigma house now include Todd's picture.
When Harvey took a job as Senior Minister at St. Andrew's church in Highlands Ranch, the family moved to Denver. Todd however, stayed in Colorado Springs. He had become close with his fraternity brothers, so Todd's parents decided that Todd could live with his fraternity brothers near the CC campus and continue to work at Wooglin's Deli and Colorado College's Tutt Library.
"The Kappa Sigmas are fine men, and we really trust them," said Judy. "It takes a lot of trust on our part to let Todd live away from us where he might be vulnerable to a lot of things. We've taken a great risk to trust people we don't know, but he has great friends, and we know he's safe here."
The Beta-Omega Chapter has a long history of acceptance. In the late 1960's our Chapter initiated the first African-American brother into Kappa Sigma. At that time one of the other fraternities on campus began to derogatorily call our members "Negroids." As opposed to reacting adversely, the Beta-Omega's embraced this label and adopted the nickname "Groids," a label that still survives thirty years later. Todd's presence in our chapter reminds us that we are unique, we are Groids.
Todd has lived with various fraternity brothers since 1995. I began to hang out with Todd on Monday afternoons during my sophomore year. He lived off-campus with brothers and I would pick him up after work and we'd plan an afternoon activity. We had great times playing roller hockey in the basement. Todd can't really rollerblade, but he's a tough competitor. He always let me win, and that made me feel good.
After we had become close, Todd and I decided that we would live together beginning my junior year. Todd was 26 that first year, I was 20. We lived with four other Kappa Sigmas, which made it nice because we both had plenty of friends around. If I was out of town, I could always count on my other roommates to help Todd get to work in the morning or make dinner if I had a meeting to go to. Todd is extremely loyal and appreciative of his friends and brothers. Cognizant that his abilities are limited, he knows he can't reach the top shelf, and he's not afraid to ask for help. He also knows what he can do by himself, when he doesn't need assistance. Otherwise, Todd doesn't think he is different from anybody else.
He's a charmer to the ladies, and he can sweet-talk a kiss out of even the most standoffish female. I often employ Todd's "macking" skills on women, but to no avail because I don't posses that winning smile that makes Todd Martz irresistible to the opposite sex. Todd's also an excellent dancer. In the words of a Kappa Sigma brother, "Todd's got more rhythm than my whole family." If I let him, Todd will sit for hours in his room listening to CDs and air-drumming to the music, his arms out-stretched, and his hands grasping drumsticks, which pound imaginary drums, perfectly in sync with the music.
In late December of that first year living together, Todd and I drove to Denver to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of my high school buddy who had specified that he wanted Todd to celebrate with us. Todd suggested we head to the bars. Todd loves going out. He has a two-drink limit, and in the fraternity it is understood that only I am to give Todd drinks so that we can closely monitor how much he has. Todd thrives on the social scene at the clubs. He talks with the bartender, waitresses, and anyone else he happens upon, usually women. When we leave, often everyone knows his name, and says goodbye to Todd. On this particular night, we left one bar, where the bartender gave Todd a free T-shirt, and headed down the street for a blues club called Brendan's.
We began to walk the two or three blocks, but it was cold, so we quickly sped up our pace to a jog that frigid night. Todd was excited and bumped into me, wrapping his arms around me and telling me I was "tackled." So we had our imaginary football game on the sidewalk that evening. Running and bumping into each other, and letting out "arghhs!" and "umphs!" and "bams." Todd's favorite sound effect is "Konk!"
By the time we arrived at Brendan's we were pretty fired up. Laughing and shouting, I followed Todd down the steps into the loud blues club. Todd stopped at the door and showed his ID to the bouncer. The man looked at the ID, then down at Todd. Todd let out a powerful yet playful "Arghh!" at the bouncer who, startled, looked at me inquisitively. This was probably the first time a bar patron had greeted him in this fashion. I flashed the bouncer an "ok" sign with my fingers and after my ID was checked, we continued on our path through the crowded club. Todd couldn't have taken ten steps past the door before he tapped a man sitting at the bar. He waited for the man to acknowledge him before he shouted "Arghh!" The man looked puzzled then retorted, "Arghh!" Todd smiled, clapped, and patted his new friend on the back, before moving to his next target, a young lady chatting at a table with her friends. "Arghh!" Todd shouted at the woman. "Arghh!" she answered before embracing Todd in a bear hug.
Brother Todd with former governor
of Colorado Bill Owens
Todd left the young lady's table and found a new friend. A black man who played in a blues band that was up next after the current group finished playing. The tall man looked puzzled when he glanced down to find this peculiar fellow tapping on his shoulder. "Arghh!" Todd delivered again. The man laughed, reached behind him, and pulled two drumsticks from the back pocket of his jeans. He placed the drumsticks in Todd's hand, and Todd began drumming the air methodically. When the drummer saw that Todd was in sync, he smiled, leaned over and said, "Hey man, those are yours." Todd replied with a loud "THANK YOU!"
Unbelievable! This man didn't know that Todd loved drumsticks, but he was moved for some reason to give them to him. I told him thank you and explained that he had no idea how much that gesture meant to Todd, and to myself.
I've often wondered if others see the magic in Todd that I see, or if I spend so much time with him that I see things others don't. But I think that there is a magic about Todd, and others recognize it immediately. I feel privileged to interact with Todd on a daily basis because I see that magic all the time. When I wake Todd in the morning and he says, "Hey Wes, I feel great," it makes me feel great! When Todd wears my Colorado College football jersey with 43 on the front and back, and "MOONEY" sewn across the shoulders it makes me proud. If you ask him who he is, he says, "I'm Wes Mooney, number forty three!" I love that!
As I neared the end of my senior year and our second year as roommates last spring, it became my duty to help Todd prepare for his transition into a new home, with new roommates. One particular afternoon we talked about the next year and Todd went to sign his new lease with the brother who is his new roommate. Todd was sad when he returned, and we talked for a long time. Todd asked me, "Are you gonna live with me next year?" I told him I wasn't and I could see tears well up in his eyes. I explained that I'd be back to visit, and that we would see each other over the summer. I fought back the cracking of my voice and I held the tears tight in my eyes so they wouldn't fall. We agreed that we wouldn't be sad and for the time being, we'd make the most of our time together and do something fun every day, a promise we kept.
The laughs I've shared with Todd, the Karaoke parties on Wednesdays at a local Tavern, and Todd's slurred and mumbled renditions of "I've Got You Babe" which always draw the loudest applause are images ingrained in my memory forever. Todd is an unforgettable individual and I'm thankful that our paths crossed.
Todd Martz is my fraternity brother and my closest friend. From Todd I've learned how to treat people, like they're special. Todd is special because he makes others feel honored. He tells me I'm his best friend.
Brother Todd pitches the first pitch of the Colorado Rockies game.
Todd's influence has not only been felt by myself, but by every brother who's lived with Todd and helped him make dinner, or any member of the Colorado College women's soccer team who have taken him to a movie. His friendships extend well beyond the walls of the Kappa Sigma House and his involvement on campus has made an impact on hundreds of young men and women. I believe my girlfriend misses Todd more than she does myself since we have left campus. My parents have enjoyed Todd's company at dinner, as have the parents of many of Todd's brothers. Each and every one of us has a special place in our heart reserved for Todd. Living with Todd has changed my life, and I've learned things from him that no professor at Colorado College can teach. I hope one day that my children will know Todd as well.
Todd Martz is a Groid. He represents why I'm proud of my Fraternity, and why my brothers are proud to call themselves Groids. He's an individual, and despite his limitations he's a loyal friend, and an honorable man. Designed to be worn by men who exemplify the ideals of our Order, the Star and Crescent is a symbol of pride in Kappa Sigma. I know no man more worthy to wear the badge, than Brother Todd G. Martz.