Bond unbreakable between Perham standout athlete and classmate with cerebral palsy
PERHAM, Minn.—Perham senior quarterback Jenson Beachy stood with fellow senior Quenten Schumacher just outside the football field last week. Schumacher had Perham's football field at the top of his wish list for places he'd like to take his senior pictures. Schumacher is not on the football team. He is confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy.
Beachy was on the field waiting to surprise Schumacher with his very own Perham football jersey. On one side was Beachy's No. 2. On the other side was Schumacher's name. The two are woven together in that jersey. The two plan to never be apart.
"Can you believe we're seniors," Beachy said to Schumacher. "It's crazy. What are you planning to do?"
"I'm gonna go where you go," Schumacher said. "No matter where you go I'm going to follow you."
Beachy's plan at the moment is to play football in college. He's received looks for football from the University of North Dakota and schools in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Wherever he ends up, Schumacher will be with him.
"I don't see our bond ever ending," Beachy said. "He's one of us."
The bond began in middle school in Perham. Laura Hofmann, Schumacher's mom, had moved from Fargo back to her hometown after her divorce from Quenten's father, Curt Schumacher.
Hofmann wanted to be closer to family and friends, but feared a smaller town would have less resources for Quenten, who was entering fifth grade. She was wrong.
"It was just amazing the community support and the genuine kindness these kids display for him," Hofmann said. "As a parent of a child with special needs that's what you long for. Jenson and Quenten have been the best of friends since forever. Everyone is so hung up on image and what things look like. There's not a cookie-cutter example for friendship. I think they're setting a really good example."
When Quenten was 6 months old doctors noticed his head wasn't growing at the rate it should. Curt and Hofmann also noticed he wasn't sitting up on his own or crawling. The two were told there was a good chance their first-born child would never be able to communicate, feed himself, sit up or ever leave his wheelchair.
"We were still in college, so we were still kids," Curt said. "It was a tough time. To hear that kind of stuff and have that put on your plate was a lot. You got this child you're over the moon about and you hear that. It's a wakeup call."
Quenten can communicate, feed himself and sit up.
"Quenten is always trying to perk Jenson up, talk to him if he's having a bad day. I think when Jenson sees Quenten he says to himself, 'If Quenten can push himself to get over all these hurdles, so can I,'" Curt said. "It touches your heart because your kids are an extension of your heart. Their whole class is exceptional people, but Jenson is on this next level. Because these kids come and socialize with Quenten his social abilities will allow him to get a job and it starts with the kids, especially Jenson."
Beachy has been starting at quarterback for Perham since he was a sophomore, throwing for 3,411 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career. No basketball player in Perham history had ever reached 1,000 points in their career before Beachy did so as a sophomore. He has started on the basketball team since the third game of his eighth-grade season. Curt heard all about Jenson making varsity in eighth grade because Quenten never stops talking about him when he gets home.
"I think there's a lot more to Perham sports," Beachy said. "We've historically had good teams in sports, and I think just the friendships and the family you create, boys and girls combined. We create such a bond with everyone no matter what sport you're in."
The first person Beachy goes up to after each football or basketball game is Quenten. Perham's first loss last football season came in Week 5 to Fergus Falls. Quenten was waiting for Beachy. He hugged him, told him he looked up to him and asked Beachy to take a picture.
"All that after a loss," Beachy said. "There's so much more to sports than wins and losses. There's the relationships you gain and the friendships that are created from sports.
"People look up to high school varsity players and say they want to be good players like them, but you have to lead on and off the court. It's not just the court or the field, but the grocery story and the hallway at school. I have the attitude that I'm not going to walk past anyone and ignore the fact they're there."
Quenten went to every basketball game this season, but one. He couldn't be at the section championship because of surgery. It would be the only game Perham would lose.
Before the game Beachy sent a message to Curt to pass along to Quenten, saying he was playing the game for him. Quenten replied with a video of himself telling Beachy good luck and he'll be proud of him no matter what. He had a sign with him in his hospital bed that had Beachy's name on it, as he watched the game on a computer.
"They have this unique bond," Hofmann said. "And it's so great."
Quenten pushes Beachy and Beachy pushes Quenten. At prom, it was Beachy's turn. Quenten needed someone to push him up a ramp for the grand march. Beachy did so and stepped back to let Quenten get the spotlight with his date.
"Jenson just makes sure our other players realize the importance of going out of your way to be a good person," Perham boys basketball coach Dave Cresap said. "He does it without being told. We need more kids doing these kind of acts to people."
Beachy originally wanted to get Quenten a letterman's jacket for his senior pictures, but there wasn't enough time to get money together to buy one. Beachy asked Perham football coach Kyle Knutson if he had an old jersey they could give Quenten, took it to LongWeekend Sportswear to get his name on the back and was there to surprise Quenten before his pictures.
Hofmann said Quenten's name is spelled the way it is because he's a 10. He's proud to wear Beachy's No. 2. He even wants to sleep in the jersey, but Hofmann says he'll be wearing it to every game this season.
"It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever witnessed," said Kristen McMartin, a photographer in Perham who was shooting Quenten's senior pictures. "That jersey meant the world to him like he had won the Super Bowl."
Beachy didn't hear Quenten say it, but as he drove away from the football field, Quenten yelled at the top of his lungs, "Thank you, Jenson. You made my day."
Beachy didn't need to hear it. He knew. He also knew Quenten will return the favor soon.
"You can't not be friends with him," Beachy said. "He's the type of person that makes your day no matter how your day is going."