Whether they realize it or not, almost everyone in Colleyville knows Michael Badger.
Shoppers at Market Street in Colleyville will recognize Michael as their favorite sacker because he loves to give hugs to those ready to receive them and because he can call many of them by name.
“There’s a lot of guests that look for Michael to do their carry-outs,” said Josh Griffin, general manager of Market Street, where Michael has worked for eight years. “Michael is part of the Market Street experience.”
The Grapevine High School football community will recognize Michael as one of its biggest fans. For more than 20 years, Michael has attended Mustang home football games with Tommy Taylor, former principal of Colleyville Elementary School and Colleyville Middle School. Michael has even been featured in a GHS parade.
“Michael has a lifetime ticket to get into the games,” said Bobbie Badger, Michael’s mother. “He sits up in the press box, and they all eat pizza together.”
Colleyville: Then and Now, a book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city, has a feature story about Michael, and Colleyville City Council Member Mike Taylor has referred to Michael as “a local hero.”
When he was three months old, Michael was diagnosed with Down syndrome, but he has never let that slow him down.
It’s safe to say that Michael Badger, now 55, has touched many lives during his 39 years in Colleyville with his jokes, pranks, Star Trek fanaticism and overall good-natured and kind spirit.
The community’s love for Michael made itself amply apparent a few months ago in what can only be described as an incredible act of kindness.
Since the age of 13, Michael has found solace in participating in Special Olympics, the largest sports organization for children and adults with disabilities that provides training and competitions for more than 4 million athletes in 170 different countries all year. He has participated in bicycling, swimming and bowling, but his favorite sport by far is golf.
During his years in Special Olympics, Michael has amassed enough medals and ribbons to fill a dresser drawer and drape two coat hangers, although he’ll be the first to tell you he very much prefers winning medals rather than ribbons.
These days, Michael is an avid player of alternate shot gameplay golf, and his partner is Hurst City Council Member Bill McLendon, a friend of the Badger family since the 70s and Michael’s unified partner since 2006. Together, the pair usually hit an average of 75 on the course.
Watching McLendon and Michael interact with each other is like watching two best friends have a conversation.
“I give (Bill) attitude,” said Michael, noting that he especially likes to keep tabs on McLendon’s church attendance. “I love it.”
“We’ve had a lot of fun together,” said McLendon. “What’s so fun about (Michael) is he hardly ever gets mad.”
Last month, Michael and the Council member took a trip together that neither will soon forget.
After accepting an invitation for her son to participate in the 2012 Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament in Arizona, Bobbie Badger was shocked when she realized the trip would cost approximately $6,000.
“We are on a limited income, and there was no way we could finance this trip,” Mrs. Badger said.
A friend who had recently participated in a breast cancer walk urged Mrs. Badger to contact everyone she knew to see about helping with the trip.
Bobbie Badger emailed letters to friends, relatives, church members and neighbors, asking for donations to sponsor their trip to Arizona. To help the cause, Mrs. Badger even baked and sold more than 50 bundt cakes.
Before the month was out, more than 70 contributors had helped the Badger family achieve their goal—and then some.
“It was amazing,” said Mrs. Badger. “I didn’t realize how many people really cared about Michael.”
Market Street, Michael’s employer, made one of the larger contributions.
“We definitely want to make sure (Michael) is taken care of,” said Josh Griffin. “Michael is a very special individual, so we’ll do whatever it takes to help him out.”
Another large contributor was Bryan’s Fund, an organization that provides startup money for special needs programs.
“Michael is almost like a son to me,” said Gary McMillon, owner of Bryan’s Fund. “He practices two or three times a week and plays fantastically well for what he’s up against.”
Michael and council member McLendon brought home a fifth-place ribbon from the tournament.
They were considered winners to everyone back home in Colleyville, where Michael continues to give hugs, collect aluminum soda can tabs and rib his golf partner.