"Our Little Trooper"

"Our Little Trooper"
"Let me live, that I may praise you!" Psalm 119:175

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ferrari Kids 2017 Gala...oh what a night...


Last night, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at a red carpet charity ball for a wonderful foundation, The Ferrari Kids.  Not only did I get to share Rowan's experience with this organization, I got to do so standing next to one of my dear friends, Keiba Easterling, for one of my other dear friends who I look up to more than he knows, Manny Diotte. 


It was a night to remember...for many reasons.






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This was a true RED CARPET, class act event...




but with a history that dates back years.


Let me start with here...

Rowan's Ferrari Kid experience nearly 2 years ago, was as amazing as every other Ferrari Kid's was, and will prayerfully continue to be...

...a day they will never forget. 






But what Manny Diotte may not realize, is that this beautiful charity, is about so much more than the kids.  I hope after last night's gala, the 5th annual...he now realizes it is about their entire families, and bringing those families together too.



Manny asked Keiba and I a couple of months ago if we would tell the story of our angel boys at this year's gala.  Keiba, Manny and I discussed how they shared a Ferrari Kids Event, how we met, and so much more... Keiba and I agreed, because we love Manny, everything he stands for, and what his charity does for kids like our boys, Rowan and Justin.

It wasn't until 1-2 days before the event last night, that Keiba and I were able to finish our speeches.  To say it was emotional is an understatement.  But everything works for God's glory, and in the end, we both wrote what I believe were speeches that honored our sons, Manny, Ferrari Kids and its contributors and volunteers...and God.

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Ferrari Kids 2017 Gala Speech –Carrie Windham


My son Rowan battled a rare genetic disorder from birth to ten years old. 

He spent almost half of his life inside a hospital.
He had nearly 100 surgeries, and was connected to feeding tubes, central iv lines and monitors every single day.
Rowan never attended a single day of school outside of our home.
Still, Rowan loved his life.  He told us so daily. 
But he knew he was “a sick kid”.
Manny tried to involve Rowan in one of his Ferrari Kids red carpet events many times over a period of several years, but Rowan was often too sick or in the hospital.  Eventually, during a Zumba-thon event for Rowan, Manny brought one Ferrari and driver to drive Rowan around a parking lot, his own private Ferrari Kids event.  That was so exciting, that it would have been enough for Rowan, but Manny wanted Rowan to get the full treatment.
On Saturday, April 23rd, 2016, the stars aligned and Rowan was able to attend a Ferrari Kids event at the Ferrari dealership near the Dominion in San Antonio.  He was driven, along with about a dozen other children, each with their own personal Ferrari cars and drivers, to the newest Walmart store, where they were each given a large gift card to go on a shopping spree inside.
I will never forget that day.  Rowan used his gift card to purchase walkie-talkies, video games that he and his brother wanted to play together, a bike helmet, an old fashioned bike bell, a “Jesus loves me” bike license plate, and a new can of tennis balls.  Rowan didn’t even know how to ride a bike yet, but he was determined (and super excited) to learn. 



At this same event, we saw Justin and the rest of the Easterling family.  We passed by them inside Walmart, with their own full cart of toys and games and said, “we’re all gonna have some fun tonight!”  We did indeed have fun that night, and I remember Rowan telling us “today was much more than a car ride Mom…I felt really special…and lucky…not like a sick kid.”
But see, Ferrari Kids is not just a blessing to these “sick kids”.  They bring entire families together.  Families who understand what each other is going through… the doctors, the hospitalizations, and unfortunately, sometimes even the pain and loss of losing their child.
Justin passed away less than two weeks after this Ferrari Kids event.  Rowan passed away 7 months after him.
They are now laid to rest in the same cemetery, in the Texas Hill Country, about 30 feet from each other.
Since their deaths, the friendship that has been formed between Keiba and I, has been instrumental in our grieving and healing process.  These boys had the same doctors, they went to the same infusion clinic routinely, and were cared for at the same hospital often.  However, you do not typically have the opportunity to, nor try to, make friends while you are having your child cared for by nurses and physicians for serious life threatening illnesses.

If it had it not been for Manny, the Ferrari Kids organization, and the red carpet event that both our boys attended together, Keiba and I would not be here today.  We would not have been able to lean on each other during this past, extremely difficult, year.  Rowan would not have painted the picture of God accepting Justin into Heaven with open arms (which you see on tables around this room). 


 
Rowan would not have helped me sew Justin’s favorite clothes together, into a beautiful memory quilt, from his own hospital bed, in Seattle this past Fall, just weeks before his own death.  Rowan would not have dreamed about Justin in Heaven and told me “maybe he’ll be the one to show me around Heaven when I get there, Mommy”.  Keiba and I would not have exchanged Justin’s quilt, between the two boys resting places this past February. 
 


She and I would not be standing here together tonight, not just supporting each other, but also asking you for your support, for this beautiful charity “Ferrari Kids”.  They don’t just give “sick kids” the ride of a lifetime, they provide love, support and friendship for the families for a lifetime as well.

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 Ferrari Kids 2017 Gala Speech –Keiba Easterling

(Thank you, Carrie for beautifully sharing. It’s an honor to stand up here with you.)



My son Justin loved music, he loved creating and directing his own movies and videos, with his sister Olivia co-starring in many of them. He even got to appear several times as the “Kid Movie Critic” for KENS-5’s Great Day SA.  Justin was a healthy kid who went to school, had a loving family and looked forward to all the things any boy his age would look forward to.

Justin was diagnosed with leukemia on June 4, 2015, and went home to be with the Lord on May 2, 2016.

I will cherish the memory of seeing the pure joy on my boy’s face as he was driven off in the gorgeous red Ferrari. PURE. JOY. The entire experience gave Justin a day to remember. A day to forget about illness, a day to forget about hospitals and medical treatment, and a day to just bask in the moment of being the center of attention--- a Celebrity at the red carpet.


I met Carrie and Rowan at Ferrari Kids. I remember seeing Rowan smiling and sitting in the Ferrari, with his medical back pack. I remember thinking “what a handsome and positive little man that is. Who is he?” I don’t even remember how Carrie and I met, but once we
connected on social media, I began following Rowan’s page and Carrie’s blog. Like the hundreds of others, I was captivated and so encouraged by this little boy’s amazing connection and faith in God.
Rowan is a child who loved his life. He spent his life helping and encouraging EVERYONE around him. He was joyful in all situations. He saw the positive in all situations. Rowan used to say: “If you can’t See the good, Make the good.”

People like Carrie, Manny Diotte and the Ferrari Kids organization, are “Making the Good.” And God bless you for that.

I would like to close with a reading taken from the book “You’re Here for a Reason”, by Nancy Tillman. This is dedicated to all of you here tonight, Making the Good, and this is dedicated to all of our past, present and future Ferrari Kids.    
  
You’re here for a reason, you certainly are.   The world would be different without you, by far.   If not for your hands and your eyes and your feet, the world, like a puzzle, would be incomplete.  
Even the smallest of things that you do, blossom and multiply far beyond you.  A kindness, for instance, may triple for days… or set things in motion in different ways.
It travels much further than you’ll ever know.. under the tree tops… over the snow…til it’s wandered…  and fluttered… and floated… and twirled — making things happen all over the world.
You’re here for a reason.  It’s totally true.  You’re part of a world that is counting on you.   So don’t be too worried if some days fall flat.   Good things can happen even from that.  
Life can be tricky, there isn’t a doubt.  You’ll skin your knees trying to figure it out.   But life works together, the good and the bad, the silly and awful, and happy and sad, to paint a big picture we can’t always see… a picture that needs you, most definitely.  
Remember that next time a day goes all wrong…to somebody else, you will always be strong.   And that ball that you lose or that kite you let go could make someone’s day — you just never know!  
You’re here for a reason.  If you think you’re not, I would just say that perhaps you forgot — a piece of the world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren’t here.   If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart, this place we call home would be minus a part.   
Thank goodness you’re here!   Thank goodness times two!  I just can’t imagine a world without you.    

Thank you, God bless you all.


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Here are a few more pictures from the absolutely beautiful event last night.  Over 500 people coming together to raise money to provide kids battling Cancer and other life threatening illnesses, a red carpet event of a lifetime...whether it be a Justin Timberlake Concert, A Spurs Basketball Camp, a shopping spree at a toy store, you name it...  When they are picked up in a Ferrari, and taken to a red carpet, lined with "fans" and "paparazzi", they feel not just like "normal" kids, but "special" kids, even "lucky" kids.  For that day (at least!) they forget everything else.  Thank you for that Manny, and every person who has ever donated to, contributed to, volunteered for, The Ferrari Kids.









 


One very talented, but also humble and sweet young man, performed live for us all...



If you get the chance to check him out or support him...do so! They weren't lying when they introduced him as a young James Brown.

(Nathan with Olivia, Justin's younger sister)


His entire family came over to introduce themselves to Keiba and I after we spoke, and offered their condolences.  What a beautiful, precious, Godly family!

A beautiful video was played, set to one of my favorite songs, "Rise Up" by Andra Day.







It was so emotional, especially since we played that song at least a thousand times during Rowan's ICU stay in Seattle, pretty much on repeat while he was in a coma.  Zoe's video of Rowan's life, with "Rise Up" playing, was also shared at his memorial service and now has over 40,0000 views on facebook since then.  That song has such significance to our family.

As if that wasn't enough though, the video montage ended with a personal video message from Andra Day herself! She spoke to Keiba and I directly...I cried so hard, and ran out of phone memory trying to record it, but I will definitely share it with you all as soon as I get a copy of it from Manny.  It was such a special, special, moment! 

The whole night was special...




And what a joy to watch Justin's Dad and sister tear up the dance floor at the After Party!




...such a joy!



Oh what a night...