I would like to tell you a story of an incredible young man and an equally incredible place. The young man’s name is David. He was born prematurely on May 10, 1982 and the incredible fact about him is he was not expected to survive through the night. David was born with Vaters Syndrome, a very rare and fatal anomaly. When David’s mother went into labor it was unexpected. When doctors discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, it became necessary to quickly introduce him to the world and his new parents. It wasn’t the best way to start a new life and it wasn’t going to get any better for a long, long time. With the help of great doctors, modern medicine and the miracle workings of the Lord, David survived his first day. His first day consisted of an ambulance ride, resuscitation, an operation and incubation. Over the next two years David would undergo 19 operational procedures, including a transplanted kidney, donated by his mother. During those two years he spent a total of 5 days at his family residence. The hospital was his home. David wouldn’t eat solid food until he was almost 4 years old and to accomplish that he had to be hospitalized again for 2 months and taught how to swallow. When he finally could eat, his favorite food was sardines. His incredible journey was fully underway. However, it wasn’t all fun and games.
His long hospital stay had put him well behind the curve in all phases of development. His interaction with other children was a total disaster. Anxiety, anger, frustration, learning disabilities, constant medical care were all part of his life. David’s first positive breakthrough came at age 15, when he entered high school in Illinois. Palatine high is recognized for their commitment to helping special needs children adapt and fit in with all students. David was welcomed with open arms and flourished. He got a part-time job, joined groups, became a positive inspiring leader. Things were going well, and as we all know the optimum word when things are going well is beware. Mom fell ill, she struggled for a couple of years before passing in 2011. David did well, he handled her passing with dignity. His many friends were a comfort, but still something was missing. We decided we needed a change. We had been exploring Florida for years and both agreed it was time.
My biggest concern was to find an organization that would allow David to make friends, keep busy and enjoy life. I had spoken to Jack Kosik on one of our earlier journeys to Florida, but had not gotten into specific details. Now was the time. The concept intrigued and excited me, not only would it allow David to do all the above, but it would present me with the opportunity to prepare David for the time when I was no longer able or here to guide and help him. We began slowly, joining and participating. Soon we were volunteering. It didn’t take David long to make friends and get excited about the possibility of starting a new life. David’s confidence has grown as mine has. This is a special place for special people. Thirty-five years ago the Lord blessed me with a special child that would forever change my life, I never dreamed that he would bless me once again with a special place. This place celebrates life, it touches all of us. It gives us a chance to reflect on the wonder of life and the goodness of people. David is my Super Hero and this place is my security blanket.