Alberta brothers’ bond grows stronger thanks to their shared love of sport
EDMONTON — Eric and Max Vriend were inseparable growing up in Barrhead, Alta. That was until it came time for older brother Eric, who has Down syndrome, to go to school.
“You know your dog or a pet will wait, well Max would wait for Eric,” laughs Mark Vriend, the boys’ dad.
It’s a brotherly bond that these boys have shared with friends and team-mates. Eric has been an assistant with every one of Max’s volleyball teams since high school. He contributes to the team and isn’t a trophy, which is important to the family.
It has always been important to the Vriends to find believers.
“When Eric helped out in high school the coach he taught Eric how to do the time clock, it wasn’t just passing water bottles around,” said mom, Janet Vriend.
And now, the MacEwan Griffins get to share in the brotherly love.
“In a timeout if he (Eric) pulls them aside they listen to him,” said Griffins head coach Brad Poplawski. “It’s just so neat to see these big athletes, how they’ve just embraced him and if he’s not there it’s like ‘hey where’s Eric today, it’s a Wednesday, what’s going on?’
“He’s really become a part of our team,” Poplawski added.
“Max is tall, he’s a good volleyball player, people know him,” said Mark. “And they know his brother as well; like that’s pretty cool.”
WATCH: When the MacEwan Griffins signed Max Vriend, the team also got his brother Eric Vriend. Eric, who has Down Syndrome, is a team assistant.
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