Monday, July 24, 2017

Dare to Dream Bigger

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A dreamer is an ordinary person.  What turns a dreamer into something extraordinary is their unwillingness to let go of the thought of "what could be." It's built into the human spirit.  An undeniable fire in your soul that says you can make something possible mixed with the sprinkle of the power of intention.   I had a taste of the impossible last year with taking Noah to Bandimere Speedway to watch the Chevy Show last year.  It left both Chris and I thirsty for more.  A dream fulfilled, but how much bigger could we dream? Chris and I never verbally said it out loud.  We never expressed our biggest wish.  God knew, but he's always known.  Experiencing the NHRA Mile High Nationals with Noah -  the ultimate dream.  I never thought we'd get close.  The logistics of an event that large - and finding another suite opportunity - well let's just say I thought I'd have a better chance of being struck down my lightening. 

I was hoping to at least in some way maybe get Noah back to the track one more time, for any race.  It didn't much matter the event.  Just to touch our feet again at the track was an itch we just couldn't stop scratching.  We tried, oh how we tried.  But we'd keep coming back to "I wish."  Bandimere put us in touch with a handful of suite owners to inquire with.  I hesitated for weeks reaching out to any of them. It isn't as easy as might think to try to open a conversation with... "Hi, I have a severely disabled son, can you help me?"  You have to prepare yourself to lock your pride behind a heavy door, squeeze all your emotions inside, and just try...

I tried to draft this simple email.  But it's never really simple or easy when you're trying to explain our challenges or our special needs family dynamic to strangers.    It isn't so much a fear or rejection as it is a worry on how you'll be received or perceived.  Can someone possibly understand through a few sentences that my fingers can write?  Can they feel my words?  Can they know what my heart aches for?  Can they sense my pain and will that scare them away?

I hit the send button and had that feeling like you wanted to bury your head under a pillow and just peak out occasionally to see if there was a response waiting in your inbox.  I prepared myself for the crush of zero responses from anyone.  When you are a special need parent you tend to always prepare yourself in some way for the bad news in some way, it really becomes a self-preservation tactic.  A gentleman by the name of Mike responded quickly.  But he wanted me to call him.   In my mind I weighed that out thinking he didn't have the heart to let me down gently in an email, and preferred to tell me he sympathized with our unique circumstances but had no season availability to assist gently over the phone.  You can be okay with that I coached myself and dialed his number. 

Mike answered with the warmest and friendliest voice.  A voice that offered comfort and kindness from the moment he picked up the phone.  We had a lovely chat about Noah, he shared with me his own life's storm with his dear wife Amy fighting a battle with cancer and invited us to the Jet Car Nationals and wanted to warn me that she'd be wearing a mask not because she was ill but because she was medically fragile herself right now with chemo treatments.  He shared with me a bible verse, words I needed to hear.  He reminded me that God collected my tears and for the first time in months I didn't feel so alone.  I was so excited.  I happen to like jet cars just as much as I do nitro fueled.  And I was thrilled to have found an opportunity to get Noah back to Bandimere. 

The weekend prior to the Jet Nationals we took Noah and Luke to the movie theater to see Cars 3.  And Luke caught a germ and by Monday morning he was so sick.  Two days later Noah also was sick.  I knew there was no way I could take either child near Mike's wife, although it's always been my policy never to expose my children to others when they are sick, as I wish people would offer us that same courtesy.  A simple cold can be life threatening for Noah or those who have a medically fragile condition.  I sent Mike an email declining his beautiful offer to attend Jet Car Nationals with him.  And I thought it was over.  I had lost our one and only chance to get back to Bandimere. 

Mike's reply was incredible and left me stunned.  Not only was he tremendously understanding but he asked us to keep in touch that he might have availability for the Mile High Nationals.  I never ever thought that would ever be an option for us.   I got the boys well, and I rather confined them to the house for two weeks just to give everyone a fighting chance should Mike still have availability.  I hesitated until kind of the last moment.  It's so hard, I don't even know how to describe it other than the most humbling experience you could ever imagine when you reach out to someone you don't know and ask for their help.

Mike as warm and tender as he was the first time said he had been waiting to hear from me and offered us tickets so that we all could go and I could bring Noah's grandma and grandpa for an extra helping hand. However, Mike explained he would be missing the Mile High Nationals for the first time in twenty years due to his wife's illness.  It broke my heart as I know what that feeling is like.  I know what it is like to put your dream and love on hold because the storm of your life has rolled in.  It's not an easy pill to swallow, it crushes your spirit and almost feels like someone is stealing the breath out of your lungs.  During his family's own medical hardship, Mike still offered so much love and understanding.

In the middle of Mike's incredible offer of access to his suite for the event, HopeKids extended an opportunity to Noah to attend the races by way of invitation from Racer's For Christ - Win Light Kids.   It was kind of a pinch me moment.  They said we'd get to take a tour and meet the racers.  We were super excited.  It was like God said okay this a dream you have?  Well let me just put the icing on the cake for you.   We now had the ability to shelter Noah since he can't regulate body temperature and assist him with his sensory challenges and bonus he'd get to meet some of the driver's and hang out with them. Everything lined up just as if it were meant to be.

Walking through the track gates with Noah was a surreal moment.  Chris and I looked at each other in disbelief that we are at the Mile High Nationals... with Noah.   I was 18 weeks pregnant with Noah the last time he technically was there.   Everyone at Bandimere was certain I was having a boy even though I was convinced I'd was having a girl.  They predicted it correctly - just as they predicted he'd be our little racing buddy.   Noah received such an honor when our story about taking him to the Chevy races was published in Bandimere's 2017 Fan Guide.   We hadn't been walking more than a few feet when people started stopping us asking if this was the Noah they read about in the fan guide.  Noah beamed with proudly, he needed no verbal words to display how happy he was that people recognized him and wanted to talk to him and meet him.  He soaked up all the attention in the most adorable way.

John Bandimere Jr. And Tami Bandimere-Shrader also paid Noah a special visit in the suite, they had heard about his arrival.  Noah of course super excited as he remembered John from the previous year.  John offered him tender kisses and Noah looked at him I know wanting to thank him.  Everyone in the suite were so wonderful to Noah.  Mike owns a business called HIS Construction LLC, and his employees are really great people.  They welcomed us as if they had known us for years.  Sharing stories about how they all went to Kindergarten together and how Mike was the best boss - and they really meant it.   I was even able to spot Christy Emilyon and John Miller who are staff at Bandimere and really who we owe much of our thanks to as for without them there would have been no connections made to offer Noah any of these opportunities.
And we got to meet new friends this time.  Racer's for Christ (RFC) coordinated a meet and greet with some of the driver's in their pits.  Many of them inviting us back for a behind the scenes even into their trailers.  And for race fans like us... that kind of thing puts you on cloud nine.  The drivers and pit crew were all super awesome to Noah and to Luke.  All signing autographs for the boys, t-shirts, and even some rods and piston parts that were autographed.  True treasures. 
 Noah did remarkably well with his sensory challenges in the pits and even tolerated headphones on his head for part of the day.  He still had a few hiccups though in the suite.  The sunlight hit him wrong which caused a gag and vomit, and I a few people passing him quickly to exit triggered it once.  Although very minor I always worry what other people think who aren't familiar with Noah's sensory display.  I'm sure they wonder if he is ill and they likely don't understand he does this frequently as a defense mechanism, either when he's overly excited or something bothered him.   He can handle listening to flight for life land less than twenty feet from him, and enjoys loud music, but can't handle the sound of a barking dog.  I'll never really understand why he can tolerate some things but not all things. 

Racer's for Christ was so sweet, Noah's grandma was having some hip difficulties with lots of walking and so they rode her around in a golf-cart from pit to pit so she could be with us and enjoy the experience too.  They fully understand God's blessings and the miracle of Noah's life and they felt like we had always known them.  I'm so thankful to have connected with new friends at RFC as Noah can use all the prayer warriors he can get.  Prayers move mountains.  I will never forget any of them, and the special work that they do.  Their presence at the track was really wonderful, and it was like having God's hands of reassurance hold us through all of it.

Luke is a lot like me and picks his driver's based on car sponsors and car designs.  He has fallen in love with the Make a Wish car, and likewise the driver Tommy Johnson Jr.  and Jerry Savoie because he races alligators, and Noah has a soft spot for Lisanne Hewel (he loves the ladies), and he took a particular liking to Terry McMillian who was so thorough about describing the intricacies of his car in such detail.  Although, all the driver's we had an opportunity to visit were just beyond lovely to the boys.  I've always loved how all the driver's have such a great comradery with each other, and although they banter with each other they care about each other win or lose.

There is nothing better than watching the flames and the speed of nitro cars going down the track, it's such a thrill.  The jet cars were the finale for Saturday's race.  Jet engines literally shake that tower so fiercely it almost feels like it could crumble.  The shear power of it all is beyond cool.  The smoke engulfs the window view for just a moment and then this loud thunder, as fireworks go off behind them.  The entire suite cheered with amazement, awe and delight.  Noah celebrated too.  The finale.   We did it together just as we dreamed it to be. 

We owe so much thanks to Mike at HIS Construction LLC, and his incredibly big heart, HopeKids for extending the invitation to us and knowing how much this event would mean to our family, to RFC and Win Light Kids who give families like our unique opportunities at the track that we otherwise couldn't experience without their help, all the driver's; Jerry Savoie, Hector Arana Jr., Karen Stoffer, Tim Wilkerson, Terry McMillen, Tommy Johnson Jr., Scott Palmer's crew chief, Ashley, Alexis Deioria, Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican, Lisanne Hewel and of the countless pit crew who gave generously of their time and attention to us while they were in the middle preparing to race and to the Bandimere family and staff who always makes us feel like we're so loved.  It took a racing village.  But we dared to dream bigger - and we did it!


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.