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Delivering a special Christmas gift to a special boy in Clearfield County

January 20, 2021 09:00 AM
By: Marla Fannin

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​In late December, employees in PennDOT's District 2 played a part in bringing Christmas magic to a boy in Clearfield County.

10-year-old Parker Bowman lives in Osceola Mills with his mom Estelle, dad Bill, and older brother William. As a toddler, Parker was diagnosed as autistic and has long loved to travel and explore. During many family trips Parker gets to pick the route and choose which turns they make or which direction they follow. In turn, these adventures have fostered Parkers love of highway signs, including arrows, construction alerts (especially oil & chip) and most importantly, Route signs.

Parker has an iPad and has loaded Google maps, Google earth, and the 511PA app. Parker loves to use the traffic apps on his iPad to follow routes, weather and other updates. He's often on "Street view" and focuses a lot on Pennsylvania, but he also looks at streets all over the country. Parker has photos where he groups routes together. Name a particular street and Parker can quickly tell you the street's county location and give you all kinds of details about it. Parker's also able to give you route options for a specific trip and he can name every County in Pennsylvania in alphabetical order.

Parker and William Bowman holding Route 322 sign
Parker Bowman (left) and William Bowman (right) holding the Route 322 sign.
Older brother William is also in the autism spectrum and interested in computers and IT. Although the boys are completely different in their interests, William and Parker share a special bond. Mom Estelle noted, "They really adore each other. There is always laughter in our house, so we feel blessed as a family."

William is out of school but Parker attends school in the Philipsburg-Osceola district. Parker is in an autistic support room but is integrated with main-stream students for socialization. Because Parker is inquisitive, he often works ahead of other students and the school matches his pace. As a former Osceola Mills Council member and a current member of the school board, Estelle knows the importance of consistency, so the family also works with Cen Clear Child Services to address needs in and out of the classroom. Outside of schoolwork and his love of signs, Parker likes to study countries, maps, and flags.

While traveling, detours prove to be a challenge for Parker. Estelle noted that because Parker likes things to be consistent, detours can throw him off a little. But once they are on the detour, Parker settles in and makes comments about specifics on the detour route.

Because of Parker's abilities and interests, mom Estelle knew that a very special Christmas gift would make for a memorable holiday, but she also knew she'd need help to get the job done. Estelle sent a message via Facebook to PA State Representative Tommy Sankey asking for his guidance and help in securing a highway sign for Parker.

As a Representative invested in helping his constituents, Rep. Sankey reached out to PennDOT to determine what could be done to make this Christmas wish come true. Once PennDOT had approved donating the sign and then located one that was out of cycle, staff at Rep. Sankey's office coordinated sign delivery and helped reach out to the family to share their story. Assistance from Rep. Sanky helped make this Christmas wish a Christmas reality. 

Parker Bowman Route map example
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Clearfield County Maintenance delivered a Route 322 sign to Rep. Sankey's office on December 21. Estelle Bowman picked the sign up on December 23. As the photos show, Parker's happiness and excitement about this special Christmas gift are easy to see. In the image on the right, you can see how Parker organizes Routes into clusters per county.

Thanks for this endeavor go to Rep. Sankey and his aides Bill Armstrong and Kristen Natoli, Clearfield County Maintenance, and District 2 Traffic staff.

It's heartening to know that Santa's helpers can be found anywhere and can take many forms. Employees in District 2 were happy to help bring holiday cheer to the Bowman family. 

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