This blog was written by Emily Finer, the mother of Devino, a 10-year-old boy diagnosed with less severe autism. Emily says about Devino, "he loves NASCAR. He watches recorded races over and over. He uses the internet to learn more about NASCAR. He memorizes statistics and hangs on every word the commentators say, especially Darrell Waltrip. His dream in life was to meet Darrell Waltrip (DW). He hopes to be a commentator for NASCAR when he grows up like DW."
When I saw the Dover race included a big fundraising event for Autism Speaks, I sent an email to them for help. Devino wanted to meet Darrell Waltrip who is known as DW so badly. He was always asking me if he could meet him. How could I get this arranged? In the email I explained Devino’s dream to meet DW and asked for advice on how this could happen. I mentioned we would be at Pocono Raceway this weekend (June 7th – 10th). We live only 30 minutes away and went all 3 days.
I received an email from Artie Kempner who arranged a “Meet and Greet” with DW at Pocono for June 8th, Saturday morning. We should get there around 8:45 and we would be brought to Mr. Waltrip. I found out that things don’t normally work out so quickly but the timing of the email and the kindness of Denise Bianchi who is the Autism Response Team Coordinator made it all happen.
We were taken to DW’s motor home. I thought DW would come out and see us for a few minutes. Devino kept telling me how he hoped to tell Mr. Waltrip everything he knew about NASCAR and I kept telling him it may be a quick meeting. However, when the door opened, we were invited inside! Devino was all smiles. Mr. Waltrip was kind and gracious. They talked and talked for a long time. My son was so animated and happy. He was finally able to talk about NASCAR with someone who could really understand him. Any race or driver mentioned Mr. Waltrip knew about it.
They talked about DW’s career. My son rattled off the number of wins, top 5 finishes, top 10 finishes and a slew of other facts about DW including the amount of money he won during his entire career! Honestly, I didn’t know he knew that much. Devino had seen him race from watching the Classic NASCAR races. Devino learned new things about Mr. Waltrip who told him some stories you can’t find in books. Devino took out his NASCAR History book for DW to sign. He also signed the shirt Devino was wearing that says, “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Let’s go racing boys”. He gave Devino some signed pictures and a CARS movie hat that he signed Darrell Cartrip. I took only one picture because I just wanted to see my child happy.
I can’t thank Mr. Kempner and Autism Speaks enough for arranging this meeting. To Mr. Waltrip I give my sincerest gratitude because Mr. Waltrip gave my son the most valuable thing he could give, his time.