THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Yvonne Abraham

Families face next hurdles

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / April 3, 2011

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Two beaming mothers held each other in a darkened ballroom Thursday night. Staring up at the young man at the podium, Patty Parker and Rose Favard looked as if they might levitate with pride.

That was their Rudy up there, poised and handsome in his three-piece suit, an 18-year-old linebacker captivating a room packed with heavy-hitters.

“My mother always sang a song in Creole that . . . means God will make a way,’’ Rudy told the crowd. “God made a way for me to get a great education. . . . You have forever changed my life.’’

That brought all 850 people roaring to their feet.

In a few months, the two mothers will be saying goodbye to Rudy Favard. He is headed for Connecticut, to study marketing and play football at Sacred Heart University.

College is what Rose always dreamed of for her son. It’s what she was thinking of when she brought her family from Haiti decades ago. It’s why this devout Baptist was determined to get Rudy into Malden Catholic, praying for two years before it happened — with the help of a Catholic Schools Foundation scholarship.

“I ask God to cover him, and God did,’’ Rose said. So did Rudy’s father. Short and slight and 67, Joseph Favard still works two jobs, which means 16-hour days and weekends, as a health care aide.

Malden Catholic brought Rudy into Patty Parker’s life. She called the school for help when her husband, Rick, got sick, and could no longer carry their severely disabled son, Sammy, 8, upstairs to bed each night. The school sent Rudy.

Showing up to cradle Sammy four nights a week, Rudy became a Parker, too. Patty, Rick, and their son Ben found respite in his vitality.

After their story appeared here in December, it was passed along thousands of times, spreading across the globe.

In some ways, the attention was transforming. Supportive messages flooded in for the Parkers. Rudy, initially mortified at the attention, got good at interviews. The Catholic Schools Foundation invited him to speak at Thursday’s fund-raiser and he owned the room (it also gave him a $5,000 scholarship).

But none of it changes the fact that Rudy is going away to college. And that reality brings challenges for both families.

Rose Favard will have to learn to live without the youngest of her four sons telling her he loves her every day. And the family will have to find some way to pay for Sacred Heart, which gave Rudy some scholarship money, but not enough to cover his education.

“I don’t want to put the burden on my parents,’’ Rudy said. “They’re too old to be worrying about these things.’’

The Parkers face different hurdles. They need to find a house without stairs more urgently than ever. They can’t rely on high school kids to come by every night, and even if they could, they’re not sure anybody could slide as smoothly into their lives as Rudy.

“We’re so happy for him, and on the other side, we’re trying to face the reality of our situation, too,’’ Rick Parker said.

After their story appeared, a lot of people offered money to help the Parkers afford a new house. But only a couple of small donations materialized. They’re working on doing it alone, which is how they’ve done most things since Sammy was born. They’ve had their eye on a house in Melrose for months. It’s a stretch, but it’s perfect.

The Parkers’ predicament weighs on Rudy.

“I’d rather they get a handicap-accessible house than me get a scholarship,’’ he said after his speech, “so they won’t have to rely on someone like me.’’

The truth is, there aren’t many like him. Sitting in that ballroom Thursday night, it was easy to share his parents’ pride, to feel, as his grinning father put it, “Same high with the sky.’’

The feeling was infectious. After the ballroom emptied out, Rudy and his family were passing a hotel bar and the cheer went up.

“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!’’

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com.