Students launch Notre Dame campaignPublished 5:55pm Sunday, December 16, 2012
Blake Dudley is Rudy for the Twitter generation.
By day, the soft-spoken 14-year-old attends eighth grade at Dowagiac Middle School, nursing a dream to be Bowl Championship Series-bound to see his beloved University of Notre Dame and favorite player, linebacker Manti Te’o, vie for their first national title in his lifetime.
He’s living a larger, louder life in “cyberia,” where his story is set to music in YouTube videos, even enemy Alabama fans think fond thoughts of him and the viral reaction to his dream to get from South Bend to South Beach for the Jan. 7 title game seems more possible than a fiscal cliff solution.
At school, Blake is becoming like a rock star, with classmates writing support letters to Coach Brian Kelly that will be delivered by Principal Matt Severin.
Though he usually tools through DMS halls in a power chair because of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he’s also ridden in Mayor Don Lyons’ yellow Lamborghini.
Te’o posted Blake’s dream to his Facebook fan page.
At Union High School, senior Maggie Cripe sold T-shirts to help.
“We’ve sold a lot of T-shirts” at $10, Blake’s mom, Celeste said. “I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve heard from. It’s been crazy.”
Vicksburg gave half its proceeds from a 50/50 drawing.
Thanks to social media, his quest reverberated from Ellen DeGeneres’ Facebook page to Nate Dreslinski.
Dreslinski is from Clinton, south of Ann Arbor, but he also plays tight end for the U.S. Air Force Academy. He offered Blake’s family tickets to see the Falcons play the Fighting Irish on Oct. 26, 2013, in Colorado Springs.
“That touched me the most,” Celeste said. “What a sweetheart. He calls me ma’am.”
So much has happened in such a short time in anticipation of 12-0 Notre Dame playing the 12-1 Crimson Tide in the BCS championship game at Sun Life Stadium.
It started with Blake writing a letter Dec. 5 expressing his strong desire to be at their first shot at a national title since 1988. His mother “bawled my eyes out” when she read it.
He’s seen them play in person three times, including Purdue this fall.
At one game, he sat next to tight end Kyle Rudolph’s grandmother.
His letter spread like wildfire through Twitter and Facebook.
Celeste, who works as a bartender at Four Winds Hartford casino, said support is pouring in from all over the country ,
“I never thought for a second that by posting a letter my son wrote one night while I was at work on Facebook could spread like it has. A true blessing that so many people can come together for one boy’s dream. I have been contacted by many Alabama fans … how cool is that? Our heads are spinning.”
“It’s crazy how quick this happened. We here at the middle school decided to do a letter-writing campaign for Blake,” Severin said. “A whole bunch of our kids are writing to Coach Kelly on behalf of Blake, saying what a great kid he is and this is his dream, to go to the championship game. My goal is to get them down to Notre Dame no later than Monday. The kids said some nice things about him. Not all of our kids are able to be financial contributors, so this seemed like a great way for middle schoolers to have a part. We started working on them (Thursday). We all have our fingers and toes crossed that this happens. Even if this game doesn’t happen, what a cool feeling to know our town has come together in support. That’s got to feel really good.”
Severin used to teach Blake’s favorite subject, science.
Blake’s only been in the chair for three years. He used to be able to play baseball and soccer. His dad, Jim, has taken him to Soldier Field to see the Chicago Bears play.
“We just have to get it in front of the right people,” Celeste said, since it’s like trying to get golden tickets from Willie Wonka.
She hasn’t seen tickets any cheaper than $1,300 online.
She lies awake at night trying to figure out ways to make her son’s dream come true.
Blake, who has a younger brother, Brenden, 12, has been given tickets to the Notre Dame men’s basketball game on Dec. 21, so he has that to look forward to, also.