EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – It’s common for parents to worry about their kids making good friends once they’re off to school. That’s why it came as a pleasant surprise when one Flambeau High School student with special needs gained two best friends who would stick by his side for years to come.
Jake Heldt and Blake Moore are both three-sport athletes. Dylan Bendixen is known as one of the most popular kids in school. The three met in elementary school and have since built a strong bond grown out of kindness and understanding for one another.
“Obviously, it’s a little different than an average friendship we rely on each other a little more but I think we consider it just a normal friendship,” said Moore.
“It started back in elementary as long as I can remember we were sitting together at lunch taking him out on the sleds,” Heldt said.
The relationship only grew stronger once they graduated eighth grade and moved on to high school together. Teacher Todd Roehl says the start of high school meant Dylan’s family had to make a tough decision.
“They had always talked about possibly going to a different school that could better meet his needs, but the number one thing was these boys. His friendships and happiness were more important,” Roehl said.
Since then, the friends haven’t left each other’s side. Jake, Blake and Dylan walk to class together, eat lunch together, and after school Dylan never walks to the bus alone.
“Every day whether it’s rainy snowy sleety they’re here with him. Sometimes they race sometimes it almost brings tears to my eyes the way they treat him,” said Dylan’s bus driver, Jerry Gillis.
Their loyalty to each other benefits each person differently. While Jake and Blake say Dylan has taught them many life lessons along the way… The 17-year-olds have been exactly what Dylan needs.
“He’s become a lot more vocal since we befriended him and just more comfortable with everything and like to see it because he has a lot more fun during the school day when he’s doing that,” Moore said.
“Before he’d only talk to us and now, he interacts with a lot more people,” said Heldt.
Even those on the outside have seen and felt the impact of this friendship.ADVERTISEMENT
“Sometimes as educators, we think students need to learn from us all the time and the neat thing about Dylan and these young men is they’ve been teaching us. Teaching us how to treat people; teaching us the human spirit,” said Roehl.
“Dylan has brought a lot of good things out in Blake like being a good friend and being kind … I’m really proud of him for being kind and being a good kid,” said Travis and Lea Moore, Blake’s parents.
“It’s such an honor to see your son going out of his way and have such a kind heart he’s just always tried to make Dylan’s birthday or Christmas special … at the end of the day they are just a group of friends and that’s how they see it. They don’t see it any different, Dylan is their friend and that’s it,” said Ryan and Jessica Heldt, Jake’s parents.
Now the three boys are set to graduate this May. It is a huge life event that’s bringing mixed emotions.
“Exciting to move onto new chapters in my life but I’m worried our friendship might get a little bit distant, but I think we will try to hang out outside of school more,” Moore said.
“The one part I don’t like about graduating I’m kind of bummed about that,” said Heldt.
But by the looks of it… it would take much more than that to break up this friendship.
Jake and Blake are both recipients of the Brandon Burlsworth character award. They hope the lesson taken away from their friendship with Dylan is simply to always stay kind and treat others the way you want to be treated.