Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pioneer Elementary Assembly

I love public speaking and I love to share the RODS Racing story so when I was asked to be a guest speaker at Pioneer Elementary School in Preston, Idaho I quickly accepted.  After a day or two passed from accepting the invitation I really started to think this through.  There was going to be hundreds of 1st and 2nd graders in attendance.  I thought about my little 1st grader and how small her attention span is.  Then I started to get nervous.  I feel fine speaking to an audience full of adults but how in the world was I going to keep these little guys engaged!

The day quickly arrived and my family and I made our way from Meridian down to Preston.  This was a special opportunity for me.  This was actually the school that I attended throughout grade school.  Driving up and seeing the familiar building brought back so many memories.  Walking into my old gymnasium reminded me of the many dodge ball and basketball games.  It's where I had my first school dance in 5th grade (now that was stressful!), and also where our Idaho History Bee was held.  Never did I think I would be back in that gymnasium as a guest to speak to the students.

The children started filing in and they looked as nervous as I was.  I noticed that many of them were dressed in their Sunday best in preparation for the big day.  I found out that the teachers had been talking with their students and explaining about Down syndrome, Orphans and what a "hero" is.  They were all excited to be there.  So was I.

Before the assembly even started I got a special surprise.  One of the teachers had collected a bunch of photos of me and my family while I was growing up as well as a few from the past year as I was doing Ironman's.  They put them together in a slideshow.  While the slide show was playing the students sang a song for me titled, "That Hero Could Be You".  I was fighting back tears and the assembly hadn't even started. 

Principal Wynn Costley and Mrs. White, my 4th grade teacher (one of my all time favorite teachers) introduced me and just like that I was in front of hundreds of little guys telling the RODS Racing story.  I talked a lot about Nash and even had Nash come up in front of the kids.  It was a lot of fun to see their expressions and their enthusiasm. 

One thing I wanted to do was have the teachers choose a few children who they thought would be good candidates to receive a RODS Racing T Shirt.  At the end of my presentation I made a special announcement that everybody there was going to get an official RODS Racing Card and that a few lucky students were going to get T Shirts.  Seeing the looks on these children's faces when their names were called out was worth it's weight in gold! 

After the assembly the students once again played the slide show they had made for me and sang me the Hero song.  Talk about a tear jerker!  As they were leaving I went into the audience and gave lots of high fives and hugs.  I wish I could have spent 1 on 1 time with every child and encouraged them to keep on going and never give up.  They are all so full of potential and they deserve to meet that potential.

I stopped by one of the classes on the way out and they gave me some goodies.  I also saw a bunch of posters welcoming me.  Kids are great and I'm glad I had this chance to speak.  I always feel like I benefit more than the audience when I get to share the RODS Racing story.  One things for sure, these guys sure made me feel like a hero!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maelie Has a Family!!!

It's day's like today that keeps the fire burning to work on behalf of Orphans with Down syndrome. Five months ago I was fortunate to visit an orphanage in Peru. It is there that I met a very special little girl named Maelie. Maelie is a soon to be 5 year old who has Down syndrome. Since that day, I felt it important to try and be an instrument in helping her find her forever family.

This search took me to the lava fields of Kona where I raced in the Ironman World Championship on Maelie's behalf in hope to find her family. The day before the race I received an email from a family in Tennessee asking me about Maelie. They had been feeling led to adoption for many months, but it wasn't until just the day before that they felt strongly that they should inquire about Maelie. Ironically enough, the very next day I would be racing on her behalf!

Things moved quickly after that. There application was accepted and they were officially matched to Maelie!  I'm excited to announce that Maelie has a loving family committed to adopting her!!!

Meet the Olsen's!

Lisa and Paul have been married for 17 years. They have three biological children. Their boys (ages 7 and 9) are GREAT big brothers to their baby sister (almost 2) who happens to be a princess with Down Syndrome. The Olsen's tried to adopt internationally a few years ago, but the country closed its doors to adoptions with the United States while they were in the process. They were unable to complete their adoption, which was devastating. Lisa’s heart remained tender towards adoption, but they were very reluctant to go down that path again. After the birth of their daughter, they discovered Reece’s Rainbow. Lisa visited the site often, looking at the waiting children and reading about the incredible families who opened their homes and hearts to orphans with special needs. The Olsen's spent months waiting and praying, wondering if God was calling them to step out in faith and begin the adoption process again. One little girl in particular touched Paul’s heart. Even then, Paul said “God would have to hit him over the head with a shovel” to convince him it was time to move forward. Well, Paul’s head is still tingling! God flung the doors wide open for the Olsen's to step forward to adopt Maelie! The Olsen family is humbled and excited to begin their adoption journey and welcome another princess into their home!

This is a picture of Maelie's soon to be little sister.  They are going to be awesome for each other!


In reading the Olsen's bio about their family, I particularly enjoyed the part where they referenced God opening the doors wide open for them to step forward to adopt Maelie.  I feel the same way when thinking of finding Reece's Rainbow almost 1 year ago and the miracles that I have witnessed since then.  I have learned that if we have desires to be part of something that will truly make a difference in someones life, those opportunities will be presented to us.  Whether it's orphans, Down syndrome or some other cause that is close to your heart, I encourage you to seek opportunities to make a difference.  Don't allow doubt or fear to stop you.  Please don't feel that you can't make a difference because that is simply not true.  If you have sincere desires, doors will be opened, hearts will be softened, and lives will be changed.