Our family was honored to represent Johns Hopkins All Children’s at Speedway’s 2018 Miracle Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. When our hospital’s representative called to ask us to participate, I could have never imagined what an amazing experience it would be! From their first air travel to new friends, I truly believe my boys will carry this trip with them forever.
Their first airplane trip went great – Delta was amazing. Staff chatted with the boys prior to their boarding, and the pilots gave them wings. On our second flight, the pilot chatted with them for so long the flight attendant began boarding people around us! Logan gave the free Kids Corner on the Delta TV a thumbs up, and Lennon thought the snacks were great. By the second flight he was looking for the flight attendant and her cart before we even reached cruising altitude. If you fly with children, Delta gets it and really steps up to make them comfortable.
We arrived Sunday evening and attended a family meeting, where we met the leadership staff from both Speedway and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) and the other families. The kids and parents alike were instant friends. There is something special about
meeting other parents that have “been through it”. We were assigned holes to “man” during the tournament so the kids would have the opportunity to interact with the golfers, which of course is rewarding on both sides.
That night, several Miracle kids braved the chilly hotel pool and began to get to know one another. It was neat to see children of all ages, different physical appearances, and medical backgrounds just “be kids” and enjoy having fun together.
On Monday we arrived for our shift at the NCR Country Club. As we drove in, flags lined the driveway, each featuring photos of the Miracle Kids in attendance. What a cool touch!
The kids were also selling raffle tickets, and I discovered that my boys should have their own little Amway store! After receiving $100 from one golfer, Lennon quickly discovered that by jumping from a $5 option straight to $100 he was making an impact – one that a few more golfers went for! Logan, who generally avoids being very verbal with strangers, was eventually approaching golfers on his own and greeting them with several sentences. Also joining us at the holes were managers from Speedway Stores who were top fundraisers in their area. This was another great opportunity for us to say thank you, and also for them to personally see kids that their fundraising efforts affect.
We shared North Hole #10 with Lexi, who is currently in remission after treatment for B-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. Adorable does not do her justice as a description. The “L” team had a great time, playing in the rain and not letting the weather dampen their energy or spirit!
Sharing the photo of them holding lollipops reminded me of another fun part of the event – the mock Speedway Stores! Inside the main room of NCR, as well as in an outpost building on the course, mini-Speedway stores were set up, in which the kids could fill bags of candy, snacks, and drinks to fuel them through the day – and probably through next year! My boys didn’t know what to think when they woke up Thursday and I wasn’t letting them eat Slim Jims and Airheads for breakfast. 🙂
Reuniting with old friends was also on the to-do list for the event – the boys were excited to see Miss America Cara Mund, who serves as the Goodwill Ambassador for CMN, as well as CMN staff member Amanda Clark – both whom the boys developed connections with through the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. They never forget people with a good heart and a warm smile!
We were also able to attend a beautiful banquet, during which our children were treated like rockstars! It was unbelievable. We had the pleasure of meeting the leadership of Fortier, Inc., which was the company that specifically sponsored our family attending the event. Also sharing our table was Angelica, a Speedway Store Manager from Bradenton. We had a great time sharing our story, and getting to know everyone.
One of my favorite moments of the banquet was entering the room – the kids individually walked in, announced by Miss America, in a parade-type fashion. Our boys grabbed their flag, and just marched on together like they were headed for something big. They grew up so much in just 2 days! It just shows how much strength is pulled from knowing you have people supporting you.
Jack Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, attended the event and shared their story on how Children’s Hospitals became their passion. In 1966 their daughter, Nan, began choking periodically. Barbara and Jack took her to a variety of doctors over a two-month period, but nobody could offer a solution.
Finally, Nan was taken to the local children’s hospital and given an X-ray. Doctors found a shadow near her lung — she had inadvertently swallowed a blue crayon. Using a adult bronchoscope, doctors tried to remove the crayon but bits of it fell into her lungs. Nan spent six days in intensive care and suffered pneumonia. Nan pulled through, and Jack and Barbara became eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses at the hospital. “We felt like the hospital and the doctors have saved her life,” Barbara said. “So we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘You know, if we’re ever in a position to help someone, we want it to be children.”
When the boys posed for the picture with Barbara and Jack, they were an awful combination of wired up and exhausted. I was struggling with them a bit to just smile for the one photo, and then Barbara whispered something to me I will never forget. She said, “You know, if these were my kids…my mother would have said to me ‘Barbara – no one wants wooden children.’ Your boys are wonderful.” I’m going to hold onto that for a long time.
The evening’s surprises didn’t end there. Our dessert for the evening was cookies WITH THEIR PHOTO on them, as well as an absolutely amazing gift from Dr. Pepper. Months ago we were asked to provide some artwork from our children to the Speedway representative, but they didn’t tell us what it was for. At each child’s seat at the banquet was a special wooden box, containing a one-of-a-kind Dr. Pepper bottle with a label featuring their art. As we understand it, they may be released in the future at Speedway stores as a fundraiser for CMN. How cool is that?
There was one more full day of golf after the banquet, and the weather finally played nice, giving us an afternoon of sunshine. All the kids lined up to see the golfers out for their shotgun start, giving our high fives and fist bumps to every cart that passed. After the golfers went out, a group shot of the kids that were there was taken (mine is a bit off center). Look at all of those happy faces!
There is no way for us to say thank you enough to Speedway, CMN Hospitals, and all of the sponsors and vendors that made this event happen. Thank you for being Miracle Makers.