📷 Zachary Wolfe enthusiastically greets drivers near Big Y Plaza in Southbridge
By Sarah Champagne, Managing Editor
SOUTHBRIDGE – Vehicles driving by the busy corner near Monro Muffler and Brake in the Sandersdale section of Southbridge may occasionally receive a warm welcome from a young man who derives great joy just from saying hello. Now and then in that spot, Zachary Wolfe can be seen, energetically waving to each vehicle that passes.
The fun Wolfe has greeting passing vehicles is visible in his enthusiastic and happy demeanor. Wolfe was diagnosed with autism at the age of 18 months, but he has had a lot of support growing up. His mother, Carla DiGregorio-Wolfe, is a speech therapist. Zachary’s father, Jeff Wolfe, can be seen as a supportive presence just further back from the road when the younger man gets a chance to wave to cars.
Wolfe gets a variety of reactions from passers-by at his location near the Big Y Plaza. Some drivers seem puzzled, and others disregard his enthusiastic waving. Many more drivers will wave back. Some will honk their horns to say hello, and sometimes drivers of larger trucks will pull their air horn to acknowledge Wolfe.
Wolfe, now 16 years old, is a student at Southbridge High School who has just started his junior year. His father, who is involved with the Southbridge Softball Association, says that Zahary is well known to players and friends of the league.
“We go down to the field, and he knows every name and their jersey number,” the proud father says.
The young man was “in the zone” waving to cars and was a man of few words when asked for comment, staying on task.
“It’s a good idea. I like saying hi to people,” Zachary offered before catching the next car to pass by. Each vehicle that passes is met with the same enthusiasm and warmth as the last one
Rick Plante, store manager for Monro Muffler and Brake in Southbridge, says that he enjoys Zachary’s presence whenever Jeff comes in for an oil change or service.
“It’s an inspiration to watch him,” Plante remarks. “He has such positive energy.”
Drivers will sometimes ask Monro employees if they are having a sale or promotion, but Wolfe’s waving is all his own. His father reports that on rare occasion, someone will pull into the parking lot to find out if the young man waving is distressed and needs help. For the most part though, the young man just hopes to brighten the day of those he greets with a simple but enthusiastic salutation.