Up until a year and a half ago, Vernon was just like any other 14-year old boy. At that time, he was diagnosed with a progressive brain disease and within six months, was confined to a wheelchair. The illness does not affect mental abilities but causes major problems with balance, coordination and mobility.
A professional fund raiser for Kids Wish Network called Vernon’s mother and upon hearing about Vernon, suggested she contact the wish granting organization’s headquarters in Oldsmar, Florida. As part of the process, Vernon was asked to describe his wish. Vernon loves Nascar racing and his bedroom is papered with pictures of his hero, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. It came as no surprise that Vernon’s only wish was to go to a Nascar race and meet his idol in person. He wrote a heart wrenching “please please” on the border of the page of the application describing his wish and vowed that if he got to shake hands with Dale, “he wouldn’t wash his hands for a long, long time.”
Thanks to the efforts of Kids Wish Network and the compassion of the racing star, Vernon’s wish came true when he and his family, along with Madeline Robinson, a Wish Coordinator for Kids Wish Network, traveled to San Francisco for a weekend of racing and a meet and greet with #3 himself, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Vernon not only got to shake hands with Earnhardt, but received an autographed photo, hat, and had a model car autographed. He even got to go behind the scenes for a first hand look at what racing is all about. The racing icon and the young boy share an interest in fishing and Vernon brought along a personally decorated fishing lure which he presented to Dale.
Meeting Dale Earnhardt was just the start. It was as though the whole city of San Francisco pulled together to make sure that this was a time that Vernon and his family would never forget. The travelers were treated to an in depth tour of Alcatraz and elegant lobster dinners at the Alcatraz Cafe and Neptunes Palace. Mr. Limo and Lorrie’s Limos provided limousine service which was a new and exciting experience for the family.. American Airlines provided round trip transportation and hotel accommodations were provided by Best Western Fisherman’s Wharf.
It was a magic time for Vernon and anyone seeing the constant smile on his face would have no doubt that dreams really do come true.
If you know of a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of wish granting services, please call (813) 891-9374 or toll free at (888) 918-9004.