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The Car Club Exclusively for Kids with Special Needs

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 26, 2023 3:01 am

The Car Club Exclusively for Kids with Special Needs

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 26, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, when Blair and Cat Cornell found out their son was going to be born with special needs, it changed their lives for good... and they're using that experience to change people's lives for the better.

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To search for the Our American Stories podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. And up next, we bring you Blair Cornell to tell you the story of his family, their experience with special needs, and what Blair is doing as a result. I went off to college to Ohio University and that's where I met my wife Kat. We met freshman year and were good friends for those first couple of years and then took that plunge and decided, are we going to take this risk to jeopardize our friendship and maybe date? And I'm so glad that we did because we started dating and never looked back and have been best friends ever since. We graduated in college in 2004 and I convinced Kat to move back to my hometown here in Dayton, Ohio, where I knew I was going to be working in a family business, financial advising, wealth management business that I had wanted to work in since I was a little kid with my dad. And she trusted me and believed in that and so she followed me back to Dayton and that's kind of how we ended up here. Kat and I got married in 2006.

Kat is a CPA so she was in the accounting field for a couple of years and then she went on to work with a larger firm, LexisNexis, as a financial analyst and did that for a couple of years. 2008 came and we had our first child. Caitlin was born and changed our lives forever. Shortly thereafter then we welcomed our second child into the world and that was Carter and that's really where our lives changed significantly. In 2010, on August 23, 2010, I remember the day like it was yesterday, Kat and I were driving in for our 20 week ultrasound and we found out some exciting news that we were having a little boy, but we also found out some devastating news that he was going to be born with moderate to severe special needs, if in fact he would even survive.

For us, we had made a decision that we were going to make the most of this. For several weeks then we continued to try to find answers and figure out what was going on and we went down and had very good care down in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's and that's a top hospital in the country and we had a great team of physicians that answered a lot of questions and helped to get us kind of on track for what we were going to be expecting. Meanwhile, Kat was very sick. She didn't really eat much for about four or five months while she was pregnant with Carter. She was not able to keep any food down.

She had extreme hyperemesis, which is extreme nausea and that's what prevented her from really being able to eat much. So she was on a lot of supplemental nutrition, which was taxing for her and for me, you know, caring for our daughter Caitlin at the time too before Carter was born. And so that was a tough time as our family had to adapt to that and figure that out. But we were also excited for the journey that God was going to put us on when Carter was born. And in 2011, January 4th, 2011, we welcomed Carter Thompson Cornell into the world and that's really when the journey began for what God had in store for us and the plan that he had for us that we couldn't have foreseen back when we had just Caitlin or before when we were just getting married. You think you are going to be heading down one path and you realize quickly that there's a bigger plan that we don't all know the answers to. And so Carter was born in January 4th, 2011 and was in the NICU at the hospital for 10 days.

And then he came home from there. We started to adapt to what it was going to be like to live with a child with special needs. When you hear that a child certainly is going to have challenges, you're heartbroken and you go through that denial and that feeling of sadness. And I think at least for me, you're a little selfish at first wondering what's this going to mean for me and how much harder is this going to be for me and how is this going to change our family and all the plans that we had and how that's no longer going to be exactly the way I had planned it.

But then I think over time you start to evolve into this is no longer necessarily just about me and a challenge for me. But there's an opportunity for me and for others to reshape us and to be able to say, hey, this is a positive and this is a blessing because at the time I would have told you I have no idea how I'm going to be able to do this and I'm not sure I can do this. When you're in that moment, when you have a child, you'll do anything and you find a way. Carter surpassed a lot of doctors' goals just from the fact that he was born full term. A lot of doctors thought he might have been preterm, which could present more challenges, and the fact that he was full term was a big win and a big success. Then in the hospital, he had a lot of things that we weren't sure about like hearing and eyesight tests that seemed to be going okay. And so then when he came home, there were certain things we didn't have to worry as much about and other things we had more to worry about.

But Kat, who was staying home with our kids at the time, spent a lot of time researching and learning what she could and then going to lots of doctors' appointments and meeting with different specialists. And so there were lots of unknowns and a lot of uncertainties for those first few years, but that's really when Carter started taking on his own and really doing well. And it started surpassing, quite frankly, what we'd all had expected in those first few years of his life. Carter to this day is somebody that we always are wondering what's coming next, but he continues to surprise us in a lot of ways. And you've been listening to Blair Cornell tell the story of his family.

You're having a boy. And the bad news is he saw initially his boy would have special needs, that is, if he survived at all. One thing we heard clearly, though, from Blair is that he was excited to find out what journey God had for him. And clearly his faith life had so much to do with how he handled this. His initial response was a selfish one.

How would this affect me as opposed to, well, might this be an opportunity? And when we come back, we're going to find out more about how young Carter changed Blair Cornell's life here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country, stories from our big cities and small towns.

But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button. Give a little give a lot. Go to our American stories dot com and give. Same.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we're back with our American stories and Blair Cornell's story. After the birth of their first child, Kaitlin, Blair and his wife Kat found out that they were about to have another child, a boy who's going to be born with moderate to severe special needs. Let's pick up where we last left off. In 2006, I was driving home on a summer night and I came into the house and I looked at Kat and she said, you've got to help me. I've had a really rough day and I don't really know where to go or what to do or how to get Carter back on track. He's had a rough day. And I said, well, what can I do?

And she said, I don't really know. So I walked over and sat down next to Carter, knelt down next to him and said, Carter, what's going on? And he couldn't really talk. He was crying and tears were ruined on his face.

He was just very upset and frustrated. And I thought, well, maybe I could take him for a ride in my car. And I had a fun convertible at the time. And I said, Carter, do you want to go ride for a ride in daddy's convertible? And he looked up at me like a light switch was flipped and said, ride in daddy's convertible.

And then I said, yeah. And he said, let's go. And so I remember carrying him out to the garage that night. I could just feel his chin resting on my shoulder as we bounced along the way out to the garage. And I strapped him into the convertible and buckled him up and away we went. And that night I watched all of his fears and tears and frustrations really go away. And it was a pretty incredible experience to see just a simple car ride really change his life.

And I thought to myself, that was pretty incredible. There's got to be something more to this. And as I talked with more people and Cat and we experimented, we realized that that was a big trigger for Carter. Kids with special needs, they have triggers. And some of them, it may be cars. For Carter, it's certainly cars, but also music.

Those are triggers that can kind of distract him and put him back on track and really kind of help reshape how that day is going to go. So after I experimented with that, we realized there was more we could do with this. And we went to work in creating a nonprofit that we formed that we call Joyride. And Joyride was formed at the end of 2016. And we launched our first event in 2017. And Joyride is all about kids, cars and smiles.

That's our tagline. It's pretty simple. It's just getting together kids with some amazing cars to put a smile on their face.

And it's a pretty simple thing when you think about it. But it's something that can be very moving, not only to the kids, but certainly their families. But I think everybody that comes to our events, whether they're a car driver or they're a volunteer, it's a way for people to feel fulfilled in their life and giving back to a community of people that tend to get overlooked. When Joyride started out at our very first event, we had 12 cars and about 45 kids. And our biggest event, we've had 30 cars and almost 150 kids.

So probably 500, 600, 700 people that were there in total when you factor their families and friends and all the volunteers. So it's been a fun, fun way to see people gather and give back in a big and meaningful way. And as we continue to see Joyride grow, I don't know where it'll go, but I can tell you that with the impact that it's had just on me personally, it fuels me and continues to push me harder to have more events, bigger events, and reach more kids.

I've got four kids now. Brady and Davis were born when Carter was just three years old. And Brady and Davis were born, they're twins, and I would tell you that they have, even though they're several years younger than Carter, they've kind of become a big brother to him in some ways and how they already help him and give back. And it's neat to see them be excited to come to Joyride events to want to give back in the same way that Carter's older sister, Caitlin, does.

And that's really what it's all about is getting an event pulled together for the community to come together, but to realize we can all hit the pause button on us and maybe find a way to give back to others. We're trying to make this the most the most high end that we possibly can to make these kids truly feel like a VIP. You want to try to bring cars in that aren't cars that you'd see every day on the street. That's what makes it special, makes it unique. So the cars that we have there are very unique. We have really typically a lot of the exotic or really high end cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris and McLarens. And, you know, really anything that you would probably turn your head at on the road and think that's not normal. That's not something you see every day, at least in most areas.

That's what we have at our events. And I also kind of have a little chip on my shoulder when it comes to siblings of kids with special needs, that they get to do all the sporting events and the sleepovers and everything else and their sibling can't. And I think it's OK that they get to go to an event and they don't get to ride in these cars. But Carter does and Carter's friends that also have special needs do, but their siblings don't.

And it's not that I'm trying to exclude them. I'm just trying to make it that much more special for our members of Joyride, which are the kids that have special needs. But I'll tell you, the story that sticks out to me the most was at our very first event, believe it or not. At the very first event, there was somebody who came to our event, a driver that came to our event. He had probably the nicest car at the event. He was driving a Lamborghini Aventador, which for those of you that don't know much about cars, it's a half a million dollar car. So it's a very expensive car that Lamborghini has.

It handles and performs as well as anything out there. But this driver looked at it purely as it's just a car and it's a car to be used here for today to create happiness for these kids. He didn't care if kids were standing on the seats. He didn't care if kids were rubbing up against it.

He didn't care. It was just a car and it was not going to he was not going to guard it and not let anybody really get to enjoy it. It was there for the kids to enjoy. And I'll tell you, I'm always walking around a little bit and making sure that parents and kids are respecting these cars because they are very expensive cars and not everybody feels like this driver did. But on this particular day, this driver was there and I watched his interaction with these kids all day long.

And after the event, I remember watching him talking to one of the kids, the members from Joyride, and it was a scene that you would almost see from a movie. He was kneeling down next to this little boy that the boy was telling him about how he was scared because he had some treatments coming up that he wasn't sure how it was going to go. And this little boy had all kinds of challenges and he had some pretty intense medical treatments that were coming and this driver knelt down next to him and took his hat off that the boy had kind of taken a liking to. And said, well, I've gone through a lot of medical challenges myself, too. And this hat is my magic hat that's helped me get through all of that. And when I wear this hat, it protects me to make sure that I don't feel any of that pain or I don't worry. He goes, I'm going to give you my hat and you wear this hat and that's going to help get you through all those challenges. And you could see probably 10 volunteers watching that interaction and they're all in tears watching this driver. And I pulled him aside at the end of the event and I said, I just watched that.

And that's amazing that you have that outlook. And he said, look, I've gone through a really tough time in my life. I've gone through a divorce.

I faced a lot of medical challenges myself. And he said, I bought this car thinking it would bring happiness to me. And it has. It's been a fun toy to have. But I've never experienced joy with this car or joy like this in my life before. This is one of the best days of my life. And seeing that I can help somebody else has really moved me. He said, I can't wait to come back and do it again.

And that's exactly what Joyride is all about. A terrific job on the storytelling and production by Robbie Davis. And a special thanks to Blair Cornell for sharing his story, his family's story. And what he did about it. What he did about it in his own community starting Joyride.

Carter is having a rough day. And he thought, maybe I can take him for a ride in daddy's convertible. By the way, what parent hasn't thought this at some point or another to solve a problem? I watched all of his tears and fears go away. One simple car ride. It was a trigger.

One that can distract him and put him back on track. Indeed it did. And the scene I'll always have in my mind is the driver and his magic hat with that young boy. And what it did for the driver as well as the boy. A story of compassion, of love, of so much more. Blair Cornell's story. The Joyride story. Fast cars and big smiles.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-26 16:53:00 / 2023-06-26 17:02:13 / 9

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