Just for the record, Jay Dee Bateman’s parents do have names. They are Karma and Brent. But anytime they go places with their oldest son, or when they meet anyone connected with Alta High School, where Jay Dee has been a student, they are introduced as Jay Dee’s parents. When they meet someone from the high school football team, or when they go into the fast-food restaurant where their son works, they hear only one thing. “Oh, you’re Jay Dee’s parents.”
“It’s fun to be related to somebody famous,” Karma says, smiling.
Jay Dee Bateman, 19, a priest in the Hidden Valley Second Ward in Sandy, Utah, is like many boys his age. His favorite class in school is weight lifting. He likes to hang out with the cheerleaders. He attends most of the school dances. Just about everybody at school and in his neighborhood knows him. He loves to play with his two younger brothers, and his three younger sisters can persuade him to help them with their chores. At church, when he gives the sacrament prayer, it brings a spiritual tone to the meeting.
Oh, and by the way, Jay Dee was born with Down’s syndrome.
As his parents point out, Jay Dee has never let his limitations keep him from trying new things. But perhaps his finest achievement is something he is able to teach by example. He knows how to make and keep good friends.
One of the biggest challenges most teens face, including LDS teens, is feeling accepted and confident enough to extend themselves and make friends with lots of different people. When the New Era first heard about Jay Dee, we intended to do an article about how a group of LDS kids were able to include a handicapped boy in their circle of friendship. However, when we talked with them about Jay Dee, they told us over and over that the credit was all Jay Dee’s. They said they hadn’t made the first moves or kept the friendships alive. Jay Dee had done it. The article idea changed. We started making a list of rules Jay Dee had taught them about making and keeping friends.
Give everybody a chance. “I met Jay Dee in the seventh grade,” says Jesse Bullock. “I was new in the school and needed a friend. I had him in choir class first period sitting right next to me. We had so much fun in that class. He doesn’t care who you are. He gives you a chance no matter what. That goes for everybody because I’ve been there.”
Call people by name. Jay Dee has a funny little habit of calling people by their whole names. His friends kind of like it. They especially like that he always remembers their names. “Jay Dee always calls you by your first and last name,” says Kendra Dana, student body president of Alta High School. “Often we are in such a hurry we just say hi. We don’t say names. I think that is admirable to be able to call people by name.”
Jared Colton says, “I knew who Jay Dee was, but he just recognized me from football. I gave him a ride one day, and he talked the whole time. When I let him out, he said, ‘Now what’s your name? My mom will want to thank you.’ He’s never forgotten my name.”
Be sociable. “I injured myself in football,” says Aaron Weaver, “and was out for the season. Jay Dee would come to every single practice because he was our team manager for football. We would sit on the bleachers and watch practice and just talk and have fun joking around. He wants to be your friend just as much as you want to be his.”
Don’t be pushy. “Lots of times I gave him a ride home from school,” says Matt Lawson. “He would never ask for a ride. He would be by my locker after last class. He’s not pushy. When I would walk out to the parking lot with him, I would be proud to be walking with him.”
Have a good attitude. “What sticks out most about Jay Dee is his basic attitude about life,” says Jesse. “I’ve never seen him down on himself or anybody else. No matter what troubles he has, he always gets through. A good attitude will invite more people to come to you.”
Be enthusiastic about the things you’re doing. “He was water boy for our football team,” says Jared. “He did that job 110 percent. When there was a timeout, he would sprint out. It wouldn’t matter what job he was given; he would do it all the way.”
Be dependable. “I’d go pick him up from football,” says Brent Bateman, Jay Dee’s dad. “He would be the only kid in the office with all the coaches. During practices, the coaches would send Jay Dee to lunch with some of the rougher football players because they knew that Jay Dee would make sure they did what they were supposed to do. He would bring them back for the second half of practice.”
Give the right kind of affection. “I’ve given more high fives to Jay Dee than to anyone else,” says Jared. “If I say hi, he stops, comes over, and shakes my hand and puts his arm around me. It’s easy to love him.”
Just be yourself. “Jay Dee doesn’t put on a show,” says Jess Arbon. “That’s what has made him so widely accepted. He is just himself around everybody. He’s not fake. He’s just who he is.”
Be accepting of differences. One of Jay Dee’s friends he has known the longest is Suzanna Romney. She and her older sister Quinn got to know Jay Dee in their ward. Even though Jay Dee was a little shy then, these sisters could see his heart of gold. They went out of their way to say hello to him. They have even asked him to be their date at girls’-choice dances. Their example began to spread through their friends and other friends and throughout the school.
“Don’t be afraid to step outside of yourself,” says Suzy. “Maybe it is easier to accept those who have Down’s syndrome or mental disabilities. What about those who aren’t born with handicaps but are just different in their interests or background? We have to not worry about that and accept everyone for the good that is in them.”
It takes practice. “It does take practice to reach outside of yourself,” says Kendra, “but when you are accepting and learn to love, it becomes easier. Things spread. If you go, then your friends will follow. Instead of one person getting to know this person who might need some help, it’s a whole group. It snowballs.”
Jay Dee Bateman has learned the secret of being a good friend. Maybe it was something he just knew inside, but through his example, others are learning the formula for making friends. And they truly care about him.
“During one football game,” says Matt Lawson, “there was a sideline play, and Jay Dee got crushed. Everyone just stopped. We didn’t care what the score was or what was happening with the game. We all helped him up. Every single person came up and asked him how he was. But he just brushed it off.”
Is it worth getting to know Jay Dee, or someone like him? “It seems,” says Jared, “that with all of us who have tried to get to know him, it has been a blessing in our lives. We have all benefitted.”
And that’s why it’s worth knowing Jay Dee. He has uncovered the secret of being a good friend. He just may have to buy nametags for his mother and father to wear. It looks like they’ll be known as Jay Dee’s parents for quite some time.
Amber Baughman, 17, of the Rock Springs (Wyoming) Fourth Ward, has a reputation similar to Jay Dee’s. Like Jay Dee, Amber was born with Down’s syndrome. And like Jay Dee, she’s figured out some ways to make and keep especially close friends.
Include everyone. At girls’ camp, Amber was a bundle of enthusiasm, and she brought a spirit of unity. “Other years, said Tambree Knight, “sometimes one or two girls used to go off for a while on their own, or maybe some would only hang out with their closest friend. But Amber needed everybody. She loved everybody and kept us together. It was really cool.”
Pray for your friends. “Amber zeroes in on feelings,” said Cami Smith. “She has a way of dealing with her friends’ distress that works every time. She prays for them. When Amber prays, she prays for us individually. She asks Heavenly Father to help us be happy again. And while she’s praying, she touches the person she’s praying for, tapping her on the head or on the shoulder. Sometimes she ends her prayers with a hug.”
Really care. Mindy, Amber’s older sister, gets emotional when she talks about going to college and leaving Amber behind. “I just can’t imagine my everyday life without my sister,” she said. But looking after her parents, her sister, and her friends has been Amber’s goal in life, one she does with enthusiasm and great care.
The girls in her ward are quick to agree—it’s nice having a friend like Amber.