You’ve Got A Friend In Every Penn Stater

In every Toy Story movie, Woody has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he ultimately ends up home safe where he belongs, thanks to random moments of deus ex machina and the magic of Disney.

In Toy Story, a trip to the local pizza parlor ends up with Woody being won by his owner’s evil neighbor in a game of “The Claw.” In Toy Story 2, he again finds himself in the wrong hands when a creepy toy collector steals him from a yard sale. In Toy Story 3, he’s accidentally donated to a daycare center and spends the entire movie breaking himself and his friends out of a gang-dominated state of hand-me-down toys.

Nevertheless, he always makes it back to his owner, Andy.

It turns out these acts of God Mickey Mouse aren’t limited to the Pixar universe.

At the Penn State vs. Appalachian State football game last month, Woody went missing, but because of a good Samaritan, found his way back home through the power of social media and the shared benevolence of the Penn State community.

Timothy Fisher is a 12-year-old Penn State fan with autism. He is nonverbal, so he uses behaviors to communicate with others.

Timothy began attending Penn State games when he was six months old.  His parents, Jill and Tim, met at Penn State’s Dickinson Law School and are season ticket-holders. The Fishers attend almost every game (save for ones with night kickoffs and bad weather) with Timothy’s grandparents and sit in the same seats Jill grew up sitting in.

Timothy’s favorite part of going to Beaver Stadium is running around the Brown Lot before kickoff while his family tailgates and after the game to burn off some energy before the two-and-a-half hour drive back home to the Poconos.

Jill said that as Timothy gets older and bigger, it becomes harder to keep him seated and comfortable in the tightly packed Beaver Stadium bleachers. She also said that because Timothy doesn’t enjoy the games as much as his parents, they normally bring a toy for him.

Almost always, it’s a Woody doll that his grandmother gave him when he was a baby. Now twelve years old, Timothy’s Woody is a bit beat up. Its cowboy hat is no longer attached, the jeans have tears in the sewing, and the color of its shirt has faded from a vibrant yellow to a duller shade speckled with dirt.

“Woody comes everywhere with us and he always has — games, doctors appointments, wherever,” Jill said. “Timothy loves that doll and we don’t know what we’d do without him.”

Against Appalachian State, with the hot Labor Day weekend sun beating down on the 105,232 fans packed into Beaver Stadium, Timothy was growing restless as he played with Woody, who tagged along for yet another Penn State game. Sometime during the second half, Tim took him to one of the landings behind the bleachers so he could move around and not be restricted by the crowd.

However, the crowd wasn’t exactly the issue. Timothy was still bothered by something. He then took his prized Woody doll and threw it over the landing’s ledge, out of Beaver Stadium.

“His way of expressing he was upset was by throwing Woody,” Jill said. “The games are everything he doesn’t like: big crowds and loud noises, and it was hot that day, so who knows what was causing the problem.”

Tim texted Jill that Timothy had thrown Woody out of the stadium, but that he had seen where he landed and was going to go get him. When the father and son exited Beaver Stadium to retrieve the doll, they were surprised to find it had disappeared from where Tim thought he had seen it land.

Assuming Woody was gone for good, Tim took Timothy to the Brown lot to run around and wait for Jill to leave the game. Inside the stadium, Appalachian State mounted a comeback effort until Miles Sanders punched in a game-winning touchdown and Amani Oruwariye sealed the win with a walk-off interception.

Luckily for the Fishers, though, this Woody didn’t end up being strapped to a rocket, sold to a Japanese toy museum, or trapped in a landfill incinerator. Seriously, who makes this stuff up?

Penn State fan Holly Swanson also left the season opener early (The way that fourth quarter went, who could blame her?). On her way out of the stadium, she noticed a Woody doll laying on the ground. At first, Swanson walked by, thinking that a child had dropped it and his or her family would quickly retrace their steps to find it. But then she turned around for a brief moment of reflection.

“This Woody was a little beat up, so you could see he was well-loved,” she said. “As a mother, I knew what it’d be like if one of my children lost something so special. And I hated the thought of something like that getting thrown away, so I decided if anyone could do something about it, it’d be Penn State fans.”

Swanson posted a picture of the doll on Twitter and Facebook and in different Penn State fan Facebook groups, hoping she could somehow find the owner. She even got in touch with visitors from Appalachian State’s traveling fan base in case the doll had belonged to a visiting supporter.

The original Facebook post had more than 1,100 shares. Different fans reached out to Swanson, asking if she had been able to make contact with the owner.

Within a week, she did. Timothy’s grandmother saw the post and called Jill, saying, “I think I found our Woody.”

Sure enough, it was the same Woody, well-worn from years of playtime and with its hat unattached. Had this been a Toy Story movie, a moment of suspense would’ve built up to Holly finding Timothy written on the doll’s boot.

Swanson tried to organize a meet up with the Fishers at the next home against Kent State, but they didn’t attend the game. Instead, she mailed it to Timothy, who was delighted to have his favorite toy and gameday companion back. When Timothy originally lost Woody, the Fishers quickly replaced him. But Timothy knew this good-as-new doll wasn’t his Woody, and didn’t take him around as much.

“This made me feel good about people,” Jill said. “All these people tried to help some kid find his Woody doll. To me, that’s Penn State culture. Everyone talks about the negative aspects of Penn State, but these are just kind people doing their best to make a kid happy. How cool is that?

“That’s the plot for the next Toy Story movie.”

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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