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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bolt for Blue

I have something I've been trying to blog about since March. I have been struggling because it's so awesome that it's hard to put into words, if that makes sense. It's been a crazy couple of months at the Essary household but we've had some AMAZING things happen and I wanted to share with everyone. 

Remember the post I did talking about Korban's last check-up in Jackson, MS with genetics? What I didn't mention was the phone call we got on the way down there...Charles Dwyer, head of Retrieving Freedom (the organization Korban is getting his service dog from) called Brad with some incredible news for us.

Hernando High School host annual Light It Up Blue events.  They have added to these events each year.  On Friday the entire school gathers for a pep rally and on Saturday they have an annual run for autism awareness called Bolt For Blue. Last year, 2014, for the first time they wanted to help Retrieving Freedom so they decided to sponsor a child and help raise funds for their service dog. They wanted to do that again this year and our sweet Korban was the child they picked! 

We were completely blown away. That would have been fantastic news to hear anytime, but it came at an especially good time for us. We had been struggling, me in particular, with worry and discouragement. Several things had happened that made me feel really down, and I was in a slump so to speak. This news bolstered my spirits so much!  I can't even put into words how it made me feel. Just the thought that people who hadn't even met us yet cared enough about our son to do such a big gesture for us--It really lifted my heart. 

Charles told Brad that they were having a Light It Up Blue pep rally on Friday March 27th to kick off the Bolt for Blue run on Saturday. They had invited us to come to both events and Charles even offered to let us stay in the new cabin on the Retrieving Freedom campus for a couple of nights so that we wouldn't have to drive back and forth between our house and Hernando. All that was mind-boggling in and of itself, but to add to that, he told Brad that the TV show Small Town Big Deal would be there filming for an upcoming show. 

So let me sum it up for you--we are in a rough patch, then we get a phone call saying that a group of high school students and teachers are willing to help with raising money for Korban's service dog, they want us to be an honored guest at their kick-off pep rally and run, AND this is all going to be on TV, shining a light on autism acceptance and service dogs!!! How cool is that?  To say we were excited would be a huge understatement. :)

We eagerly started preparing for our visit. We tried to prep the kids and help them understand what was going on. Which was sort of tough, because we didn't totally know what to expect ourselves. We had Special Olympics on Thursday, March 26th in Pontotoc and then Korban had PT in Tupelo late that afternoon. After we finished that, we headed over to Senatobia to spend our first night at the Retrieving Freedom cabin. You would've thought our kids would've been tired after all that, but they went NUTS when we went into the cabin. They loved it. We all did!  It's beautiful and very comfortable. 

The next morning when we pulled onto the Hernando High School Campus I was awestruck. They had gone all out with decorating and the very first person I saw had on a bright blue wig and a blue cape. I knew we were in the right place. Ha! 

We went into the gym where the pep rally was being held. Charles was already there with some dogs. We started meeting people right away--everyone was so friendly! They treated Korban like some kind of little celebrity!  It made my heart so happy. (Korban's too. He told me the girls were pretty. Ha!) Lots of students came by to tell him hello or ask for a picture with him. I was blown away with how considerate they were in their interactions with him. Everyone was careful not to push him or do anything that would make him nervous. I was very impressed by that and appreciative of it. 

They had asked us earlier if we would like to speak at the pep rally and I eagerly jumped on the chance. I'm not much of a public speaker but I figured if somebody was willing to hand me a microphone and let me talk about how autism affects our lives, why we want a service dog and what a blessing Korban is to us, then I was not going to let that chance pass me by. I was also able to give an interview to a local newspaper, a news channel from Memphis, and Brad and I were both interviewed for the TV show Small Town Big Deal. Talk about God opening doors! It all happened and happened fast. I couldn't even tell you what all I said but I hope it made sense and that it touched somebody's heart. 

One thing that really stuck out to me was how much the students already knew about autism. They had already moved past the "autism awareness" part and gone over into the much longed for area of "autism acceptance." They celebrated my child. It was like balm to my soul. One of the students who spoke at the pep rally talked about how important it was to understand about autism because they may one day work with people on the spectrum or they may have a child with autism. To hear that said in such a matter of fact manner, without fear, it honestly kind of surprised me. I hear people talking about how to avoid autism at all costs, not about how they might be down in the trenches with us one day. To realize that they weren't afraid of who my son did something to my perspective. Would I have chosen autism for my baby boy?  Honestly, no. Because it makes his life harder. It makes EVERYTHING harder. And as a parent, you don't want your child to go through hard things. It's heart-wrenching to see them struggle and not always be able to help. You feel like you're taking one step forward and two back. But no matter what we go through as a family, our love doesn't waver. Hard doesn't mean bad. And I've learned that the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it when you get it. These teenagers are already figuring that out. I wish I had known what they know when I was their age. If these kids are our future, then I have to say I think we are in good hands. 

We spent pretty much all day at Hernando High School that Friday. We had such a good time and they treated us like family. We had promised the kids a fun treat if they behaved at school that day. The kids were telling one of the teachers that they enjoyed hanging out with that we were going to go have fun that night. She asked them what they like to do for fun and they were telling her different things. She asked if they had ever been to Skyzone (huge indoor trampoline park in Memphis) and they told her they hadn't. So they gave us free passes to Skyzone. So nice!  We went that evening and the kids had a blast. 

Saturday morning was the Bolt for Blue run. It was cold and SNOWING, can you believe it?  But there was still an excellent turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was the BEST weekend. Those sweet people were such an encouragement to us. 

At the end of May we went back to visit with our Hernando friends again. They had a check ready to give to Charles. They raised $1600 for Korban's dog. That is AWESOME!!! We are so grateful. 

Korban and a service dog named Presley. She's not ours (we still aren't positive which dog Korban will be paired with yet) but she is such a beauty and so sweet. She and Korban both cheesed for this picture!!! 

That awkward moment when you try to take a cute picture with a puppy dog and your little sister won't stop being sassy. Ha! 

She's not always sassy though. Here she is being sweet and kissing Presley on top of her head. 

Selah wanted to go with Mr. Charles!