|Kenjon Barner (OR RB); Ed Dickson (Ravens TE)|
I have a great son. I know, I know all mothers say that (or at least should!) but it’s true I really do. He’s kind; he has a gentle spirit, a good heart and a fiercely protective nature. He’s an amazing human, not because of his parents or his environment, but because it’s who HE is.
Because of his parents and environment the past 2 ½ years he has been through more than an 8 year old should have to go through. Being the child of a broken home is something I can’t even relate to or understand what his vantage point has or will be, but I know it’s been a very difficult adjustment for him as it would for a child of any age. But through it all he has remained his beautiful self, my friend and helper who I would be lost without.
So that is why this year I really felt he deserved a little TLC and some special attention. He’s never really had a birthday other then when he turned 1 and 5, and this year he was acutely aware of that fact more so then ever before. So as he began his month long count down in December, I began planning and plotting of ways to make this year hopefully the first real birthday he will remember.
Being a single mom, finances are always difficult so this required some out of the box thinking. I’ve been fortunate the past 2 years to of met some pretty amazing people who have become the kind of friends that you just know have your back, and lucky for me they have some pretty cool jobs! I’m not one for calling in favors, but without hesitation everyone I told about my plan to make this the birthday Kanen would never forget, said “what can I do?” So I began dreaming bigger and bigger.
After his first “official” birthday party at the bowling alley with all his friends, (the first time he’s had a party with friends from school), the fun began!
A friend of mine plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves,(Anthony Tolliver) and as a gift to Kanen got us the player 100 level seats to the game when the Timberwolves came to play the Blazers. It was doubly exciting for Kanen because he could watch Martel Webster play again, (Kanen went to his basket ball camp this summer) so he was very excited!
The night got better with passes to the club level for dinner before the game and more snacks during the game then an 8 year old should be allowed to eat (a hook –up from our amazing sitter)!
But the best moment of all was seeing his face light up when Martel Webster not only recognized him (from summer basketball camp) but remembered his name. He came over and gave Kanen a high five and said “Kanen what’s up my man!” That was priceless. A picture and big “thank you” for Anthony, and I had one happy kid with visions of what is possible when you believe swirling in his little head.
That night we walked hand in hand through downtown Portland about 20 blocks to the car (yeah I got a little lost taking the MAX, oops!), but it was the perfect opportunity to teach life lessons.
I told him this is what happens when you believe in magic. This is what is possible when you expect the amazing. He recapped every moment of the night, eyes bright and then said, “and mama! You didn’t even spend any money! It didn’t even cost a penny!” And I realized he was right, I’d just given my son the kind of evening that millionaires couldn’t buy, the kind with no price tag, and it didn’t cost a cent. That is why I believe in magic! That is why I want to pass that on to my children.
|Kanen on the NBA Bench|
He then asked me, as we walked through the dark streets of downtown if I was scared and if he should be scared, walking outside late at night in downtown, and it was the perfect time to teach him, that when you are strong and hold your head height and look people in the eye, you create your own safety zone. You create and demand respect and you get it. I can only hope that he remembers to walk with pride regardless of what life throws his way, and respect himself first, so others will follow his example.
Then I got a crazy idea…..
He loves football! It’s our thing, him and me. We watch all the University of Oregon Duck and Baltimore Raven games together (his 2 favorite teams, because his favorite player Ed Dickson played/s Tight End for both). He’s about as nutty a Duck fan as me, knows all the players, and understands the game better than I do. We practice almost every single night for an hour or so in our living room, him running all kinds of formations learning to catch the ball (gotta say he’s pretty good!). So I knew what would be the ultimate experience. When I asked Ed, he immediately said, “Sure, what do you want me to do?” My idea started with, maybe Kanen could meet him and take a picture, maybe have Ed sign a ball.
Then it grew… and grew..! When I asked him if maybe he’d come out and throw the ball with Kanen for a few minutes, he said “No problem, just tell me where”. It was a difficult secret to keep from Kanen and he was catching on. Which meant I’d have to add an additional surprise, so I asked Kenjon Barner, Oregon’s star Running Back (and one of Kanen’s favorite current Duck players) to come join us in a little pickup game. And again without hesitation he said “of course, how can I help?” I was blown away!
|Kanen playing ball with Kenjon and Ed|
But of course we’d need a place to play and it would be dark by the time we could all meet up, so I called my dad who runs the softball facility at Oregon to see if we could have the lights turned on and have the field to ourselves, and just like that…a little idea became a big reality.
I can’t say enough about how great those 2 were with my son, I don’t remember a more amazingly happy hour with him, ever. They treated him like a rock star, put all their attention on him and played some great ball. He’s such a focused little guy he just went out there and went to work with them. He’d been really nervous before hand, but to see the effort they put in to making him feel comfortable and special, is a night that neither Kanen or I will ever forget. It was truly a moment that made me so proud to be his mama and to have such good people in my life that when asked will come through 110%.
Last night Kanen got the last of his birthday celebration surprises with 4 tickets to see the Harlem Globe Trotters, where he and 3 friends got the VIP treatment. Not only did they get great seats in the front but they were the only people allowed on the court behind the rope to get autographs from the players. They had their own security escort and the floor announcer as their personal tour guide. Thanks to a great friend who is the lead announcer for the team, and who wanted to be sure this would be something Kanen wouldn’t soon forget. I wont ever forget look on my son’s face as he walked around meeting the players standing on the Blazer court, and hearing him say to his buddies over and over “this is AWESOME! this is so AWESOME!”.
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this little boy smile, and make his dream come true. He will carry it with him for the rest of his life. My hope is that each of you continue to realize what the gift you’ve been given enables you to do;which is make a difference in young children’s lives. An impression that lasts for a lifetime.
Video of Kenjon Barner playing ball with my son
Video of Ed Dickson and Kenjon Barner playing ball with Kanen
|Kanen and his buddies getting VIP autograph session on the court for HGT|
Written by: Sarah Centrella