A story that ran during the holidays last year in The Boston Globe inspired readers, and now it’s touching the lives of even more in the new documentary “A Simple Act.”
The Globe told the story of Boston residents Patty and Rick Parker, who have eight-year-old twins. One of the twins, Sam, has cerebral palsy – a condition that has rendered him quadriplegic, blind, and unable to speak or swallow.
“A Simple Act” was directed and produced by Greg Shea, who related in a recent interview with the Globe how he had been searching for a short film project when he read the December story and was moved to contact its author, Yvonne Abraham. The two corresponded, and several emails later, he was introduced to the family. The film captures life at the Parker home – most poignantly, how the simplest tasks, such as carrying Sammy up the 14 winding stairs to his second-floor bedroom each night, are no longer just a nightly routine for the family.
Until recently, Rick carried Sammy up the stairs each night. But as the article and the film explain, the nightly ritual became impossible for Rick last year after he had major surgery for a life-threatening heart condition.
“We thought Rick was going to die, and we were terrified,’’ Patty says in the film. “We knew right away he had to stop carrying Sam.’’ Because she also couldn’t carry her 75-pound-and-growing child up the stairs, Patty called her pediatrician, who put her in touch with Elizabeth Paquette, the nurse at Malden Catholic High School. Paquette said she’d take care of it. She knew she’d find kids to help; the Malden students are taught to embrace service.
In fact, it was the first student she came across – 17-year-old Rudy Favard – who jumped in to lend a hand. The linebacker, football team co-captain and honor-roll student immediately volunteered to help. Now four nights a week, he takes a homework break, drives the 10 minutes to the Parker house, and carries Sammy upstairs to bed. After a chat and hugs all around, he heads home to finish his work. Another boy fills in for him on game nights, and a third boy is on standby in case neither of them can make it.
As Abraham explained in her story last year, when Paquette brought the boys to meet the family for the first time, the Parkers cried. “‘Just to see this outpouring of people…’ Rick Parker began, his eyes welling at the memory. ‘To see that these people were willing to put their hands and feet to what they believed…’”
Now, Shea says, the parents are searching for a new home without stairs, and he says he hopes his documentary will pay forward the kindness that led Rudy to the Parker family in the first place. He’s also set up a website, www.14steps.org, where you can make a donation to the Parker family. "I'm a father of twins myself," he told the Globe. "I really felt like making a film would be a way to help this family." Watch an exclusive clip from “A Simple Act” here: