Childersburg native and Boston Celtics small forward Gerald Wallace toured the campus, posed for pictures, signed autographs and answered questions asked by the students through the help of ASD high school teacher and certified national interpreter Eugenia Truman.
“This is the best part about being an interpreter is being able to do things like this,” Truman said.
As Wallace made his way through the school, students actively sought to engage the 6-foot 7-inch towering figure in conversation, asking him questions ranging from “How tall are you?” to “Will you ever have a shoe with your name on it?”
Debbie Wheatley, a senior who plays on the girl’s basketball team, connected with him on a more personal level by giving him a name sign, a unique or special sign used to identify someone within the deaf community.
“A name sign in the deaf culture represents you,” Truman said. “It doesn’t necessarily represent the name or the letters behind it. You could spell Gerald, G-E-R-A-L-D, but Debbie gave him a name sign, (something that’s) sort of a rite of passage in the deaf community to receive a name sign from a deaf person.
“It’s traditionally given to you by a deaf person,” Truman added. “You don’t create your own name sign. Usually hearing people are part of the deaf community for a while before they are given a name sign. For Debbie to suggest or ask if he would like a name sign and for the (students) to create one for him was really a token, a gift from them to him.”
After Wheatley gave Wallace his name sign, she asked him if he liked the name sign.
Wallace nodded and responded, “Yes.”
Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind President Dr. John Mascia seemed thrilled to have Wallace roaming the halls and interacting with the children.
“It’s great that Gerald is here visiting our kids,” Mascia said. “It really motivates them, having the chance to meet someone like him. He’s a great role model, the kids seem to love him and he’s just so humble. It seems like he enjoys being here, too.”
Wallace is no stranger to giving back to his community. On Jan. 26, 2008, while a member of the Charlotte Bobcats, Wallace established the Gerald Wallace Foundation as a means to help underprivileged youth in Childersburg and Portland, Ore.
The two-hour visit serves as just another small way for Wallace to continue showcasing his giving spirit.
“It’s fun and it’s entertaining,” Wallace said. “It’s really special for me to be able to reach out and make an impact on their lives.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at email@example.com