People driving by Hendricks Cadillac/Chevy in Monroe September 13 were probably wondering what kind of party was going on. People were dancing, yummy food was being eaten, there were police, sheriff, and state troopers, a fire truck and motorcycles as far as the eye could see.
There were children dancing between the cars…in front of the fire truck, next to the dump truck with the Chic-Fil-A Cow and Tastey Cakes mascot.
But if they slowed down just a bit and took a closer look they might have noticed some of the children did not have hair. They may have noticed quite a few people wearing t-shirts with their loved ones names on it. They may have noticed a large group wearing the same t-shirt…HomeTown Heroes.
If they did not stop, the did miss a celebration. A celebration of life, loss, remembrance, fight, and encouragement. They missed it alright. And you missed it too if you did not attend.
The 13th Annual HomeTown Heroes Road Tour always starts off with a kick off for the children. At that time, all of the children Hometown Heroes supports are invited to attend along with the public. This year it was held at Hendricks Cadillac/Chevy in Monroe. It is a celebration for these children battling cancer. We celebrate them. We hold them and their families in our hearts and do everything in our power to make sure these children and their families know that HomeTown Heroes supports them. Financially and emotionally.
There was dancing and eating and all around fun going on during the kick off. Donnie Dixon, the founder of HomeTown Heroes spoke, as did several other people including a representative from the Shag Club of Monroe, Iron Horse Motor Cycles, the Mayor and more.
There were two speakers who touched my heart in a way though that I will never forget. Ever.
One was a mom and step mom who had a son who has passed away. He was just a boy. He didn’t get to live his whole life. He didn’t get to graduate high school. He fought cancer valiantly, but ended up losing his battle. But these moms were up there talking about how much they appreciated all the support and love they received from HomeTown Hereos. How their lives have changed because of HomeTown Heroes.
Their whole family was there supporting HomeTown Heroes and the other children. I couldn’t believe my ears. So well spoken, so touched by the support they received, they felt they needed to share their experience even after losing their son. My heart was breaking at the loss of their son and swelling that I, just someone ordinary, was part of such an extraordinary group, HomeTown Heroes. I couldn’t stop crying.
And then this man walked up on stage with a picture of his beautiful 18 month old baby girl. He wore sunglasses…his voice cracked when he spoke of losing his beautiful baby girl to cancer. I looked up in the sky. Really? REALLY? Life is so unfair. But then, he went on to talk about the love and support his family received from HomeTown Heroes while his baby was battling cancer. And there is one sentence that sits in my heart to this day… He said, “If it’s in your heart, do it.” when referring to being a volunteer or helping HomeTown Heroes in any way. I will never forget that sentence.
You see, I met HomeTown Heroes on their Christmas Tree lot up here in North Charlotte, but most of their events take place in Monroe or Union County, a good 50 minute drive from where I live and I have always wondered how and why I crossed paths with them. I will have people tell me it is too far to drive to volunteer. But that man who lost his beautiful baby daughter said it best, “If it’s in your heart, do it.” It is in my heart…..and that is why I do it.
Another couple got up and were telling us about the loss of their daughter. By this time, there was not a dry eye in the house, but they were still singing the praises of HomeTown Heroes. Even after the loss of their children, these families still came out to support this awesome group of people.
Chad Miller, a family friend of one of the children’s of Kinley who passed away sang “Win Win” a song he wrote about the loss of his Kinley. During that song was a butterfly and balloon release to celebrate the lives of the children lost to this ugly disease. There are no words to explain the pure heartache that was covered with pure peace during that song. The sadness was overwhelming, but the love and support surrounding these families was strong. No words can explain it. I couldn’t stop crying. My heart broke for these families, but I also felt so proud to be a part of such a fine group of people.
At the end of the ceremony, the kids in attendance each received $1000.00 to help with anything they chose to use it for. All in all, HomeTown Heroes gave away $23,000 that day.
Two children got the “Presidential” escort to school that day. Police, Sheriff, State Troopers blocked highways, intersections, and interstates while being escorted to school. Sirens were blaring, people waved, people pulled over on the side of the road.
No words. None.
When the first child was dropped off at school, the parking lot was full of kids…kids she has never met before, because this was her first day to kindergarten. These kids were chanting her name, there were news vans and people everywhere. The kids held up signs with her name. The beauty of this back to school event was so touching, it was awe-inspiring. It was surreal.
No words. None.
When the second child was dropped off, the school band was playing, the news vans were everywhere, people were cheering his name.
No words. None.
And that was just the kick off. After dropping off the second child, the rest of the group who signed up to go on the HomeTown Heroes Road Tour set out for Asheville, NC. I will write more about the actual road trip on another day.
So I will repeat the words of that gentleman who lost his baby to cancer….
“If it’s in your heart, do it.”
If reading this tugs at your heartstrings, I urge you to take a closer look at HomeTown Heroes. My life will never be the same.