Now, we interrupt the transition to high school for a Sporting KC Victory Project moment. Because of Rachel, we have had the opportunity to do some pretty cool things. She has fished with Bill Dance. Her picture has been on Times Square – 11 times I think. She has been on the Today Show. We have met Senators and Congressman and Congress women. She is one of the teens featured in “Just Like You – Down Syndrome.” We laugh and tell people who you can’t make up the stuff that happens to us! Of course that reminds me of my husband’s promise to me that “we wouldn’t look back and say we lived no humdrum life” (Forrest Gump.)
Last night rockets to the top of the cool meter though. A couple of months ago Variety Children’s Charities invited us to complete an application to be considered for selection as one of Sporting KC’s Victory Project honorees. Rachel loves soccer. She played at church and in the Upward program. She has now aged out and would love to play again but we’ve not found a program that works for her at her ripe old age of almost 15. So, I thought this would be fun. I had not been to a Sporting KC game and really didn’t know that enormous scope of the Victory Project. We applied and were almost immediately selected to participate. Brandi Thomas, the fabulous coordinator of this program, gave us all the scoop and Rachel chose two friends to take along. She chose her friends Bethany and Kyle. Bethany has been our house sitter, dog sitter, babysitter and now she and Rachel have Rachel and Bethany days. She knew that Bethany and Kyle both loved soccer and had played soccer. Our soccer fanatic friends tried to tell us what a big deal this was, but until we were there I didn’t truly grasp it.
One of the perks of being selected as the Victory Project honoree is having the opportunity to attend a practice with Sporting KC players. About two weeks prior to our gig, Brandi contacted me to say KCPT was doing a feature on the Victory Project and would we mind if they followed us around. She said she would understand if we didn’t want to do that (we would have mics and camera’s following us at practice and the game) but she noticed Rachel’s acting and thought maybe we would be good with it. We said of course! So last week we went to practice and had a great time with Rachel watching and getting to kick around the ball with a couple of the players, Aurélien Collin and Andy Gruenebaum.
Last night was the big night. Rachel’s picture and short bio were all over the place. She was announced on the big screen and the famous “Cauldron” fans chanted “Rachel, Rachel.” This was probably her favorite part!
My husband got in on video. We all ran out of power on our phones because every turn was a photo-op. At halftime she was able to meet and interview C.J. Sapong. Then, an unexpected treat. Juan Pablo, “The Bachelor,” stopped in. I know he has had some mixed press but I have to say that he and his girlfriend Nikki and their entire entourage were amazing with Rachel. We had a pre-game tour and a post-game on the field opportunity to get pictures and autographs from some of the players. Juan Pablo showed up again and played a little soccer with Rachel.
The Victory Project honoree has their own special seat. The honoree is featured on the big screen in this special seat surrounded by his/her friends. The suite itself was magnificent and the staff catered to all the guests in any way needed or wanted. Food everywhere and all the Shirley Temples Rachel desired. Rachel is afraid of heights and the plexiglass barriers that surround the seats create a visual perception nightmare for her. So when we started to her seat, I could see the fear in her eyes. She made it to her seat and made it through the chanting and on-screen shots. Then, there were the dreaded fireworks. We knew there would be fireworks but I didn’t know they would be at that moment. Fear gripped Rachel and the tears poured.
But you know what? Brandi and all associated with the evening went with it like champions. Rachel went back inside for most of the evening. She helped her buddy Deborah Wiebrecht, Executive Director Variety Children’s Charities KC, give out Variety Hearts and did a lot of meet and greet. We all agree hostessing is in her future. It was not a big deal. Everyone adjusted.
So it took all of that to get to the real purpose of today’s blog: Sporting KC’s Victory Project and Variety Children’s Charities. Last night Rachel was the superstar. She was the center of attention, showered with goodies and treated to pretty much anything she wanted. She is one of many children who will have this opportunity because of Sporting KC. Sporting KC does a lot of great things in the community. Someone with great vision and understanding decided that treating a child who had healthcare issues or special challenges deserved to be a superstar for a day. That means a lot for a lot of reasons. Just as important as what it means to the child and his or her family, it means just as much to a community. The community celebrates and is hopefully inspired to do ongoing acts of kindness and hopefully become more inclusive because of this experience. The challenges are varied and the joy on the faces comes from those with special challenges and those with regular ones.
Then there’s Variety Children’s Charities. Variety is dedicated to helping children and families with all kinds of challenges. Often they are the last stop for help in getting a communication device or a mobility tool. They work to give those with these special challenges the opportunity to do the same things as everyone else. It might be through a TeamSoccer partnership and it might be an accessible sports field for the differently-abled. They give hope and their partnerships with entities like Sporting KC inspire hope and joy.
I suppose Victory may be in the eye of the victor. Supposedly last night, Sporting KC, The Victory Project, Variety Children’s Children’s Charities, and Rachel were the obvious victors. At least one Facebook friend had a different take with this comment, “I love the look of pure joy on Rachel’s face….it is in EVERY photo….such a lesson for the rest of us there. experience JOY the RACHEL way!!!!”
By the way – Sporting KC lost the actual game.