Garrett scholarship

Brendan Garrett seems destined to work in sports.

The recipient of this season’s John H. McConnell Scholarship from the Blue Jackets organization has spent the past two seasons working as the team manager for the hockey team at Olentangy Liberty High School. He’s also filled the same role with the Patriots’ lacrosse team and previously did so with the football team, and he’s also played a variety of sports as well.

Yet when Garrett was born with cerebral palsy, a group of conditions that affect movement and posture as well as cognitive functioning, there was no guarantee any of this would be possible. The Garrett family was told Brendan might be confined to a wheelchair, but that wouldn’t be the case.

After undergoing surgery at age 7 that has significantly increased his mobility, Garrett has not let his disability stop him. That’s especially true when it comes to sports, and he’s found a home with his hockey family, serving as a key piece in 2023 for the first high school team in Central Ohio to win a state championship.

Garrett was on the bench for every Olentangy LIiberty game, serving as many ways as the heartbeat of the team, encouraging players, doing whatever was needed to pitch in and delivering the coveted “B MONEY” award after each game to a deserving player.

“Hockey is the best experience for me because it gives you more friendships,” Garrett said. “The coaches from my junior year to now, they were so nice to me. They gave me a chance to be with my friends for two seasons.”

Garrett hopes that continues to be the case, as his dream job is to work as an equipment manager for a team like the Blue Jackets or Ohio State. To that end, Garrett was invited April 6 to visit the Blue Jackets for the team’s morning skate ahead of a game vs. Philadelphia, where he got the chance to help the team’s equipment staff get ready for the game, watch practice from the bench and meet Blue Jackets players and coaches.

Garrett equipment guys

Brendan Garrett, center, is pictured with members of the Blue Jackets equipment staff - Dustin Halstead, Jamie Healy, Travis Ward and Jason Stypinski - before the team's game April 6 vs. Philadelphia.

“A dream come true,” Garrett said. “It was so fun to see what everyone does in the morning and before the game starts.”

Garrett’s mother, Julia, said being in sports – in particular hockey – has been an invaluable part of Brendan’s life to this point. In addition to his work with the Liberty programs, Garrett has been a member of the Columbus Blades sled hockey team and been able to participate in a variety of sports. 

“He’s been part of a family,” she said. “That’s what we’ve learned the hockey world is – it's a really small family. Everybody knows everybody. It’s been a blessing. Not all kids with special needs are on a team. Just being part of something, I think that’s what helps all of us go farther in life.”

The John H. McConnell Scholarship, which began in 2008 to honor the life and legacy of the team's late founder John H. McConnell, was created to recognize a high school senior who closely personifies the character and leadership that Mr. Mac valued.

In addition to his work with Olentangy Liberty’s sports teams, Garrett carries a 3.8 GPA, is in of the National Honor Society and is a member of the school’s yearbook committee. Outside of school, he has worked with Life Care Alliance, helping serve and prepare food for those in need.

The scholarship carries a $10,000 award for one high school senior each school year who stands out in the areas of character, leadership and work in the community. Garrett’s plan after graduating from Liberty is to attend Ohio State’s Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings (TOPS) program for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

“It was very cool to have got (the scholarship),” he said. “It will help me get through college.”

Garrett certainly has a bright future, and he hopes to be an inspiration for those who have disabilities. He’s recently earned his driver’s license and often talks to classmates with special needs about pushing boundaries and never giving up. He’s living proof that if you set your mind to something and work to achieve it, anything is possible.

“His story is amazing,” Julia said. “We weren’t sure he was going to walk. We weren’t sure he would be able to read. They told us probably for graduation that he’d be pushed around in a wheelchair. We said that’s not going to happen. We really continued to push him. When he’s down and out, ‘Nope, there’s people worse off. We’re doing this.’ We hope the sky continues to be his limit.”

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