Posted: Feb 10, 2013 7:21 PM by Tom Martin
Updated: Feb 11, 2013 12:07 AM
JEFFERSON CITY- By medical definition, Elijah Mayfield--compared to his peers--is alone.
"They don't have kids who have disabilities, but I do. I have Down's Syndrome, and I am the only student who has Down's syndrome," Mayfield said.
The reason he attends Helias High School is because he wasn't.
"St. Peter's, the Catholic school uptown. He was the 21st person in this classroom. And as those kids matured, they came around full circle and just embraced him," said Todd Mayfield, Elijah's father. "We had always asked at St. Peter's, okay, not being Catholic, what's next? What happens after 8th grade? And from day one, they told us, you know, more than likely, the public schools is your best option, because Helias doesn't have a program. This group of kids, they said 'we'll write letters to Helias.' They felt very strongly and they wanted him to be with them."
Elijah's schoolwork isn't as important as his social surroundings, but both take a backseat behind sports. He manages both the football and basketball teams, and through Down's Syndrome events in St. Louis, he's made a few famous friends such as Tony La Russa, Mike Matheny, David Freese, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols.
But no one ever caught Elijah's eye or ear like Leon Vanderfeltz, the longtime #1 fan of Helias athletics, known for his famous cheer.
"Everybody referred to Leon as Mr. Helias," said Helias Athletic Director Doug Light. "Just to watch when he would do it, he would just strain so much, just right from deep within him."
"Dad went to the games, and he loved Helias, he loved going to games, he loved supporting the kids," said Annie Mulholland, Leon Vanderfeltz's daughter.
It was February 6th, 2012, when tragedy struck. Vanderfeltz died unexpectedly at the age of 79.
"It just happened. Nobody was expecting it. And it was just kind of a surprise and certainly you're used to seeing him at all the games and all of a sudden he wasn't there. It kind of left a void, I guess," Light said.
A void only one person could fill.
"When Leon was alive, Elijah was already giving the H, and Leon was so excited," said Eddie Mullholland, Vanderfeltz's son-in-law.
"On the sidelines, I'm over by the game, and I yell, 'Give me and H!' and the crowd went crazy. Even my dad went crazy," Mayfield said.
"He has a feel of when the excitement needs to rise," Mulholland said.
"The name Elijah is synonymous with miracles in the Old Testament and all the things that he had done," said Todd Mayfield. "It's just really cool, like it was just meant to be."
"It's a gift. It's a gift and not too many people can do it," Eddie Mulholland said.
"Having Elijah be able to step in and do that is great," Annie Mulholland said, "and I know Dad would love it."