Sept. 5, 2018

Westfield teen with autism gets a chance of a lifetime to be on the field during Colts season opener Sunday

Matthew Hanes’ dream was to play in the NFL. One of the first things he was ever really successful at was playing football in sixth grade in a Westfield youth sports league, said Matthew’s mom, Tammy Hanes.

He tried playing in middle school, but his autism won out.

He dreamed of going to college, like his big sister, who earned an academic scholarship at Indiana University and is studying to be a medical assistant. He now realizes, he probably won’t be able to go to college. But that hasn’t stifled new dreams.

“He’s decided instead of playing football, he wants to work with equipment on the football team. That’s something with his level of autism, he could be really successful at,” his mom said.

On Sunday, Damar and the Indianapolis Colts are helping him fulfill another life dream: Being on the field of an NFL game.

Matthew has been selected as an MVP of the Colts’ season opener against the Bengals.

Thanks to a partnership between the Colts and Damar Services, which provides services to children and adults challenged by autism and intellectual, developmental and behavioral disabilities, one Damar client will be selected to be an MVP for each of the Colts’ home games. The MVP and three guests will be on the field for pre-game warmups, they’ll meet the Colts’ mascot Blue and receive special gifts.

His mom will be with him. His dad, Mickey Hanes, decided to forego going to the game with his son, so Matthew could invite two friends, one a graduate of Damar Charter Academy and a friend from Westfield High School.

“He is just beside himself excited,” Tammy said. “He doesn’t have a lot of friends, so for him to be able to do something with the guys…this is fulfilling one of his life dreams.”

It’s also rewarding him for the success he’s had since he started at Damar in April 2016. He now lives in a group home and attends Damar Academy.

“He’s doing well enough we’re targeting or him to come home soon. His academic schooling has gone up more in 2½ years than in 10 years in public school,” she said. “Brett (his teacher) is a genius.”

Not only has he improved academically, but he’s more patient, he no longer stutters or struggles to find the right words to communicate. His family and staff are confident that if Matthew stays focused, he can achieve whatever goals he sets for himself. Right now, he just wants to be involved in football, whatever way he can.


WHAT:      Limo pickup of Matthew and his guests (Mom Tammy Hanes and two of Matthew’s friends)

WHEN:      Sunday, Sept. 9, between 11 a.m. and 11:15 am

WHERE:    Damar Services Family Services Center (main building), 6067 Decatur Blvd., Indianapolis


About Damar Services, Inc.

For nearly 50 years, Damar Services has been a leader in providing services to children and adults challenged by autism and intellectual, developmental and behavioral disabilities. From its main campus on Indianapolis’ southwest side, a northeast side clinic and other locations across the state, Damar offers residential and community-based treatment, outpatient behavioral health services and ABA Autism Services by Damar. In addition, Damar operates two schools and provides foster care services. For more information, visit

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Media contact: Jenny Peters-Reese, Damar vice president of communications and marketing, 812-239-0447,