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Driven2Smile

How many smiles per hour?

FRIDAY THE 1ST of JUNE 2018 was a very special day at CTMP; the occasion being the 7th annual driven2smile event hosted by PCA UCR for individuals of all ages with special needs. It is an event open to individuals of all ages with unique medical, physical, cognitive, sensory and/or social emotional considerations. How did it go? To get a true understanding of just what this event is all about Provinz asked five people with very different perspectives to describe their day.

THE CHIEF

No, not the track chief this time but Jill Clements, a truly remarkable member of UCR who has taken this event by the horns and moulded it into what it is today. Here is her first-hand account of it all:

It’s the night before driven2smile… Sleepless, with thoughts racing, I wonder how the past two weeks of intense prep will come to fruition. The radio is calling for rain at 9 am and 3 pm – getting on track and packing it all back up… I never allow myself to look at the weather forecast. I should have stuck to my tradition this year.

The preparations begin in earnest once registration closes, although I never say no to anyone, even on the day of because I have come to learn how important d2s is to so many. I have also learned that d2s families face so many challenges throughout the year, that getting registered, organized and even out to the track, can be a momentous challenge for them.

Registration not only captures numbers but also needs – medical, physical, geographic. These factors all need to be taken into consideration when assigning each of the over 390 attendees to a run group to get them out on track – Yellow Group has maximal needs (e.g., lifting out of wheel chairs, guiding those with visual impairments, being gentle with those who have anxieties; Blue Group supports those with moderate needs (e.g., non-verbal, medical conditions, fleeting attention, etc.); Green Groupies are “good to go” with relatively minimal supports.

Once I have sorted out groupings, like an old fashioned sliding pieces puzzle, then I have to compile the registration packages – a colour coded t-shirt and matching wrist band are each person’s golden ticket to ride. Their lunch tickets and registration forms required by UCR complete the package. 

Having picked up the boxes of shirts from Andy Hunt of our Goodie Store, I am faced with huge piles of shirts – green, blue, yellow PLUS volunteer shirts… almost 500 to work through. The task starts mid- morning on a Saturday, and ends in the wee hours Sunday morning – PHEW – all sorted by colour, size and packaged alphabetically for ease at track-side check-in.

The next week is spent strategically fitting something else into every available moment – getting the Thank You banner, picking up the commemorative crafts and supplies, raffle prizes, etc… By this stage of the event, I eat, sleep and breathe d2s, while working and managing my clinic full time. Thankfully, my staff, friends and family have been through this with me and know how important d2s is to the families we serve. They can forgive and support my tunnel vision going into the back straight.

Today was set-up day. A crazy last minute call out to the track to confirm, in person, where the tent was to be set-up, threw my day for an unexpected loop. I had presorted all of the things we were taking out of the clinic’s 145 year old basement. Thom and I hauled all of the boxes up Dorothy-esque cellar stairs, then my mobile clinic (a Mercedes Sprinter) was transformed into the Jenga-mobile with hundreds of boxes strategically stacked and wiggled into place. Toys, equipment, t-shirts, swag bags, raffle prizes, first aid kits, water – everything needed to make the 7th annual driven2smile a seamless success. We have sooo much “stuff” now, that we require a second utility van – Thanks Angie Givelas, Osso Lighting. 

An unexpected phone call from Robin of Bob’s Towing made my day – she had rallied the corner workers to help set-up the tables and chairs in the tent!!! That would save us hours and a dozen or so Robaxacets!!!

With my trusty side-kick Thom, my 18 year old son with complex special needs, in the passenger’s seat of the Jenga-mobile, we rolled down the windows and cranked up the tunes to get the roadshow moving.

On arrival, Robin and the saints in white had everything set-up. We formed a human conveyer belt to unload and set out all of the Jenga pieces. WOW – set-up went beautifully thanks to the kindness of Robin and her crew. With gratitude, Thom and I headed home by 8 pm. I still had multiple loose ends to wrap-up so he headed to bed and I headed back to the clinic which was d2s central. I crawled into bed about 1am with my racing thoughts.

The day arrived!!! Thom, our dog Violet and I hopped back into the Jenga-mobile and headed to the track for 6 am. Volunteers started arriving at about 6:30 am!!! YES – Volunteers – over 50 non-UCR folks help the day run smoothly. On the way to the track, we always pause to enjoy the sunrise. It is a calm point to be relished and one of the favourite things Thom and I share about d2s and track days.

The rest, as they say, is history – the weather gods cooperated, attendees were thrilled, UCR members were appreciative and moved by the impact of their own generosity.

After we packed-up at the track, unloaded at the clinic and re-emerged from bed a few days later, the final step in 2018’s driven2smile was completed – an unannounced visit to Simcoe Hall Settlement House’s Food Bank. Each d2s attendee brings a non-perishable food item, which we in turn donate to the Food Bank. Thom loves the looks on their faces when we show-up with an SUV full of food donations!!! With these donations, driven2smile goes full circle, a full lap as it were, with its commitment to community giving.

In the next few weeks, I have the best job of all – hearing from people and sorting through thousands of photos, cherished memories, remarkable stories, and heartfelt joy. We hope to share more of these with you in Provinz under the title “Heartbeat”.

I lay my head down with a smile from ear to ear and a heart full of gratitude to the members of UCR who have made dreams come true!

THE VOLUNTEER

This event would not be possible without the cooperation of over 100 volunteers that run registration for the kids and the big kids [aka drivers], keep order in the big tent, help set up and tear down and load the riders into the cars. Here is the day as seen through the eyes of just one of these great folk, UCR regular Erica Reddy:

“Being able to volunteer for the d2s event is something I look forward to very much. The smiles, excitement and sheer joy that you see in all those partaking make it such a pleasure to be involved. This year I reprised my role of helping organize the loading of riders into the cars. It’s a great place to be if you love the excitement and anticipation brimming among those waiting patiently in line for their own special thrill of a lifetime. The track is something that brings out the inner child in everyone. To see passengers of all age groups light up as they experience the track in the passenger seat is really something that is so special. You can’t help but smile during and after the event! It is such a special day.”

As I helped load them into the cars I took pictures and could see their smiles from ear to ear. Watching the joy in their faces brought tears to my eyes and I was so happy that they got to have this fun opportunity. I was quite emotional that I got to enjoy this day and times like these with my boys. 

THE CARER

This could be a family member or a highly trained professional. However, without their expert knowledge and assistance many of the riders would be quite unable to attend and participate. Jessica Currell tells us what it is like for her to wave off her three sons in a cloud of exhaust and tire dust:

I think driven2smile has to be one of the most heartwarming and amazing events I have ever attended. My mom and I both said how welcoming and friendly it was and it truly felt like a place of no judgement, just positivity! I brought my young boys ages 6, 4 and 2, they were pumped and ready to go! They couldn’t wait to enjoy the day and have the opportunity to ride in a race car. 

As we arrived, I enjoyed seeing the smiles on the boys’ faces and saying hello and waving and smiling at everyone that greeted us at the event with such kindness and as much excitement as us! Everything was so well organized. 

While waiting for our turn to ride in the cars, lots of people asked the boys if it was their first time etc. My oldest son met others with different disabilities and had lots of conversations. He asked me questions afterwards and I thought how wonderful it was for him to have that experience. My middle son was diagnosed with apraxia (severe speech disorder) at the age of 3. We struggle with my oldest, at times, trying to accept that his brother may not talk like others, but he is just the same as you and me. This event really helped him understand more about others. 

As our turn approached, everyone was getting excited and others were so excited for them that it was our first time. As I helped load them into the cars I took pictures and could see their smiles from ear to ear. Watching the joy in their faces brought tears to my eyes and I was so happy that they got to have this fun opportunity. I was quite emotional that I got to enjoy this day and times like these with my boys. 

There were so many fun items brought to the event as well for the kids to play with…something for everyone to enjoy, for any age group. Building together, playing hockey, cooking in a play kitchen, mini-putting, etc… We even entered a raffle and won a giant duck! 

Thank you again for inviting us and giving my family and me one of the most memorable and truly enjoyable days! I’m sure so many others feel the same way. You could see it and feel it all day! Wonderful job by the Porsche Club of America, Upper Canada Region, Jill and her team!

THE DRIVER

Volunteers in their own right, drivers from the red and black run groups give their time, skill, cars and gas to the cause. We asked just one of the ‘big kids’ how they felt about the day. This what Andrew Combes had to say:

“Go get the nasty purple car”! That was the exhortation from Matthew, probably the smallest boy in the entire group of 393 kids that had descended on CTMP earlier that morning. As with all the children entrusted to my care that morning I had made certain he was comfortable and secure in the passenger seat and understood precisely what was about to happen. “Hello Matthew, my name is Andrew, pleased to meet you”. Matt was already smiling. “This is a very noisy car Matt so we won’t be able to talk much when we get out there. So we will use some hand signals, OK?” Matt grinned and nodded. I then ran through the drill, three laps, first one at ‘medium speed’, thumbs up, horizontal or down to indicate how he wanted the next lap to go, faster, about the same or slower. This is how he was to indicate if he was uncomfortable at any time. And then my pep talk. “OK Matthew if you really like it after three laps let me know and I might be able to sneak in an extra one. But you have to promise me not to tell anybody!” A high five and we are off. This year I had not one child or grown up that felt in the slightest bit uncomfortable and they all wanted to go faster and get the ‘secret lap’. 

Driven 2 Smile is Porsche Day! I rode in 6 cars. I liked the blue car. Off track I played golf. It was fun. I ate a hotdog and an ice cream sandwich. This year I stayed for the group picture. Next year I want to go to Porsche Day! – Luke

I’m no stranger to these pages and am known for being a bit of a wordsmith, but I cannot find the words to describe the high I and my fellow drivers get from driving these children around the track. It is, quite simply, my best track day of the year, every year…possibly the best day of the year period. To bring joy and laughter and beaming smiles to so many faces is to me life affirming. A lot of my life has been spent in charitable efforts – but none has brought me the sheer joy I get from doing this. 

So why did Matt exhort me to get the ‘nasty purple’ car? Well I made the mistake of pepping up maybe a jot too much by saying he was going out in one of the fastest cars there. So when Bruce Trigg came steaming past in his GT3RS Matt clearly felt shorted. Being ever the kind hearted soul, Bruce eventually gave me a pass on the outside of turn one. Matt was thrilled – and of course earned his secret fourth lap.”

THE RIDER

The rubber meets the road right here. People, big and small with every type of special need under the sun come for a good time and to have some fun. Do we provide that? Let’s see …

Luke is 12 years old. He has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Luke can speak using a number of word approximations. He uses an iPad with voice output software to facilitate face-to-face conversations. Luke LOVES driven2smile. He typically wears one of his colour coded t-shirts on days when he attends therapy at Jill’s office. This is his story as scribed by his therapist, Adrienne Hicks-Shaw of Talking Language and Communication Inc. Luke selected pictures or spelt out most of the words in his story using his iPad.

“Driven 2 Smile is Porsche Day! I rode in 6 cars. I liked the blue car. Off track I played golf. It was fun. I ate a hotdog and an ice cream sandwich. This year I stayed for the group picture. Next year I want to go to Porsche Day! – Luke”

“…‘nuff said!” </>

By Randy Gananathan, Provinz Editor
Photos submitted by Jill Clements-Baartman, taken by Jill and friends of d2s

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