DENVILLE, N.J. — Patrick Butler’s enthusiasm for school buses has brightened many local bus drivers’ days, so those drivers decided to return the favor with a party in his honor.
For the past nine years, Patrick, who goes by the nickname “Packey,” has stood in front of his house on a daily basis to wave to Denville Township Schools buses as they pass by. The 14-year-old, who has autism, even learned the names of the district’s 30 drivers and their bus numbers.
"You could be having a horrible day, and then you see [Packey] standing out there taking time to wave to all of us — it just puts things in perspective," Stacey Greenhangen, a Denville driver and transportation assistant, told SBF.
In addition to waving to them, Packey has been riding Denville school buses since he was in kindergarten. Greenhangen got the chance to transport him for summer school a few years ago.
"Packey's like a little angel," Greenhangen said. "He's just loved by everybody. He's just this innocent kid who has a love of buses." As the teen’s graduation from Valleyview Middle School approached this spring, the Denville school bus drivers planned a celebration for their “biggest fan,” as they call him.
On May 10, the transportation staff invited Packey to the Denville school bus garage, where they threw a party for him and gave him bus-themed gifts, including a backpack with his name emblazoned on the back of a yellow bus. A cake made for the occasion featured a picture of Packey, a school bus, and the words “Denville Bus Drivers Biggest Fan Packey.”
Greenhangen said that Packey seemed nervous at first when his mother brought him to the bus garage, but he eventually warmed up and connected with the Denville drivers in a fitting way: He launched into a roll call, shouting out each bus number and waiting for the driver to respond "Here!" The party also served as a sort of farewell. Next year, Packey will start high school in a new district, because Denville Township Schools only goes through middle school. But Greenhangen said that she and her fellow Denville school bus drivers hope to keep seeing Packey around town, likely waving to them.
“He means a lot to all of us,” Greenhangen said.