Today I got a call from a friend in prison, asking if I saw his old cellmate in Fenway Park during the 7th Inning Stretch. You might have missed it, during the World Series tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims. There were plenty of people, smiling and waving, and James Taylor singing “God Bless America.” A standing ovation. I didn’t see his cellie.
If you look closely, there is “Rescue,” a black lab alongside a person who was wounded in the bombing. Rescue is a NEADS dog, specially trained for months to assist people with disabilities. He was trained by Steven Parkhurst, a man incarcerated in Rhode Island’s medium security facility. He has trained several dogs like Rescue and taken solace in them going out to help people. Steven is also pursuing a M.B.A. through correspondence with Adams State University, having been aided by scholarships from Transcending Through Education Foundation and the Davis Putter Scholarship Fund.
Steve told me that “The Joint went off,” when Rescue walked onto the lush green of Fenway Park. This means the place went wild like fans watching a Big Papi grand slam. It isn’t every day when you can turn on the TV and say, ‘Hey, I know that dude- he lived on my tier,’ or ‘that’s my old cellie!’ But there they were: a few hundred guys, mostly Sox fans, checking out Rescue’s major league debut. It is a rare and precious feeling to be part of something so momentous, particularly for people in prison getting an opportunity to help others.
Its a little over an hour to drive from the prison in Cranston, Rhode Island to Fenway Park. And during the 7th inning of Game 2, it got a whole lot shorter than that.