In the post below, Kelly Freeman, grandmother of 7-year-old Andrew who has autism, tells the story of how his biggest birthday dream came true last weekend thanks to the generosity of someone neither had ever met. You can read more about how Autism Speaks is getting involved with NASCAR this year here.
My grandson Andrew is a big NASCAR fan and knows just about everything about every driver. His favorite is Jimmie Johnson. I have never heard a kid talk about something as much as Andrew talks about NASCAR. But I think the most remarkable thing is that when Andrew first received his diagnosis of Autism, my family was advised to be prepared for a child who may not speak. Let me tell you…after a recent five hour car ride with Andrew, I have found that he not only speaks, but rarely stops talking! We are all so very proud of him. If you want to hear Autism Speak, you should really listen to Andrew.
When we heard a NASCAR race was coming to Bristol, Tennessee in March, we knew it would be a perfect way to celebrate Andrew’s 7th birthday. We were sure the best present he could receive was the chance to meet a NASCAR driver. I decided to reach out to Autism Speaks, knowing this was a lot to ask for. But if you met this bright, loveable boy you would understand why I asked if they knew of anyone who might please take the time to try to make an autistic boy’s dream come true. Sure enough, we heard back soon after and a very nice man involved with Autism Speaks offered to host us at the race!
The day started when we arrived at the track at around 6:30 am to pick up our race credentials from NASCAR. We were then taken to see the TV compound and we enjoyed a really good breakfast while watching camera crews get their equipment ready. After we finished breakfast, we were taken on a tour of the area where the drivers RV's are parked. We actually went in Darrell Watrip’s trailer and he talked with Andrew about racing and gave him an autographed picture! Our next stop was at the trailer where Fox Sport's does their play-by-play of the race. Andrew actually sat at the desk with Chris Myers and was talking about racing and his favorite drivers. Then we stood outside the door and listened to them telecast part of the actual show!
Andrew was having a great time! We then got to go into the pit area and walked around watching the crews working on the cars. We also walked up to see the winners circle. We took some pictures of some of the cars while they were working on them. Andrew talked with some of the crews about what they were doing to the cars. We then got to go to the actually drivers meeting with all the drivers and NASCAR to go over all the rules for the race. While we waited for the meeting to start, Andrew was taken around to meet a lot of the drivers. Andrew also had 19 drivers autograph a Bristol race shirt signed for him. After the meeting was over, we were then taken to our seats. And they provided us with suite seats where you can see the whole track!
Andrew was really excited by then and was ready for the race to start. Andrew had to sit in the front row right next to the glass so he could see everything. He really enjoyed his day at the race. Everyone we met on this special day was awesome. This is one birthday he will never forget! He is still talking about it. I'm very grateful to everyone who helped to make this special day for Andrew come true on his birthday!