Remembering Zachary with art and love


Mosaic honors young Northborough Special Olympian

Friends of Zachary pose in front of mosaic (from left) Algonquin seniors Joe Kearney, Jake Piotrowski, Tommy Geoffrion, Sam Slovin, Derek Blanchard, Ben Macaulay, Adam Davison, Jack Rafferty
Photo/Ken Roberts

By Debra Roberts, Contributing Writer

Marlborough – It was an emotional day Aug. 24 as members of the Northborough and Southborough communities hosted an art unveiling at the Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) headquarters in Marlborough. A 12.5-feet tall mosaic of Zachary Sydney, a 14 year-old Northborough boy who passed away Aug. 29, 2016 after complications from pneumonia, was presented by friends of the Sydney family. They donated this mosaic to SOMA so that future Special Olympians could be inspired by Zachary’s enthusiastic smile.

Zachary, the son of Lisa and Terrence Sydney, was a Special Olympics participant who was loved by his family, friends and community for his “larger than life” personality and ability to bring joy to all around him with his contagious smile.  Throughout the years that Zachary participated in the Northborough/Southborough Public Schools Special Olympics Field Day events, an entourage of fans from his school would cheer him on, holding their handmade “Go Zach” signs.

The Sydney family (from left) Pauline Houston (Zachary’s grandmother), parents Lisa and Terrence Sydney and sister Vanessa Davidson
Photo/Connor S. Thompson

Many of these same friends were present at the unveiling to offer love and support to the Sydney family just days before the three-year mark of Zachary’s passing. His parents, as well as extended members of the Sydney family, and his friends, teachers and coaches, attended the event, including the retired Northborough/Southborough adaptive physical education teacher, Judy Fledderjohn, who ran the Special Olympics Field Day program for the district for several years.


Members of the Algonquin Unified Singing Club, led by local musician Lori Diamond, performed a meditative song called “Ohm” in honor of the joy that Zachary spread, accompanied by Fred Abatelli on the guitar. The performers present at the event were all fellow Special Olympians, including the president of the club, Anelise Merrihew, as well as Brooke Harrison, Nicole Castilla-Vilamil and Julia Cobb – who performs sign language for the club. Cobb has also repeatedly signed the Special Olympics oath at the opening of the SOMA field day events.

Special Olympics Statue in front of the Massachusetts headquarters
Photo/Connor S. Thompson

The oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” was written by the Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who created the organization 51 years ago. This oath is also inscribed on the statue that stands in front of the SOMA headquarters.


The event also coincided with the SOMA annual Tournament of Champions weekend, which brings about 1,000 athletes from across Massachusetts to Marlborough for one weekend every August.

Special Education teacher Christopher Hall of Sensory Arts presents to the guests, showing what Zachary’s eye looks like in an extreme close-up shot of the mosaic.
Photo/Connor S. Thompson

The mosaic, now hanging in the SOMA gymnasium, was completed by 175 students in the Sensory Arts program at the Joseph Lee School in Dorchester. It features Zachary at a field day event wearing his Olympic medals. Sensory Arts is led by special education art teacher, Christopher Hall, who mentors his students in large-scale art projects as part of the autism program at the school. In the past the students have created mosaics of New Kids on the Block, Blue Man Group, David Ortiz and many others. The Sensory Arts program was designed to spread autism awareness through art. Hall attended the unveiling and gave a presentation, detailing the process of creating the mosaic, which took his students approximately 200 hours to individually place each one of the 57,600 tiles.

Several local businesses contributed to the art installation, including Sunbelt (who donated the 30-foot scissor lift needed to hang the mosaic) and Gamache Construction of Northborough who supervised the installation. Local carpenter Paul Blanchard operated the scissor lift and installed the mosaic. Connor S. Thompson, a Flutie Foundation fellow and owner of Spectrum Inspired Photography, donated his time to photograph the event. Wegmans, Yummy Mummy Bakery, Chipotle, and BJ’s also made food contributions.

Fred Abatelli (left) accompanies the Algonquin Unified Singing Club members Nicole Castilla-Vilamil, Anelise Merrihew, Brooke Harrison and Julia Cobb.
Photo/Connor S. Thompson
Guests look at the mosaic for the first time.
Photo/Connor S. Thompson
Sydney Family (from left) Pauline Houston (Zachary’s grandmother), parents Lisa and Terrence Sydney and sister Vanessa Davidson
Photo/Connor S. Thompson


Zachary’s teachers from the Fannie E. Proctor School (from left) Judy Fledderjohn, JoAnn Murphy, Melissa LeSage, Beth Mazzola, Kate Antoinette and Susan Brunelle
Photo/Lisa Sydney




Zachary’s parents Lisa Sydney and Terrence Sydney with Zachary’s preschool teacher Alysun Stephen-Kenney from the Mary E. Finn School in Southborough
Photo/Ken Roberts
Zachary receives his medals at the 2014 SOMA Field Day at Bowditch Field in Framingham Photo/Lisa Sydney



Zachary with his friends who are there to cheer for him at the 2013 SOMA Field Day
Photo/Christina Macaulay