Sweet Victory

7 Sep

9/7/08 – (Written by Steve)  There are times in your life where a moment can define who you are and give insight into what path your life might take.  It cuts so deep into your soul that you are forever changed and forever you view life much differently.  Now, in the past few years I have had several of these events.  The day that we received the prenatal diagnosis of Sammy’s HPE; the day Sam was born; the day Sam passed away; and yesterday, the day that a 20 year-old young man named Josh Timmerman experienced his first victory of his racing career.

Josh approached Leslie and me a couple of years ago about his desire to have his name associated with something worthwhile, something that would help define who he is as a racecar driver.  He said that Sammy had touched his family, and he wanted to help raise awareness for HPE.  Of course, we were honored and thrilled to have such an opportunity to spread the word about HPE.

Last year, Sammy was able to enjoy three races, and you should have seen the smile on Sammy’s face as he was enjoying the
sights, sounds, and even the dirt and oil flying off the track!  Josh didn’t have great success during that season, but it was one where he grew as a driver and learned so much.  This year when the newly-painted race truck was revealed to family and friends, tears filled my eyes and my heart swelled with joy to see a memorial tribute to Sammy on the back of the truck.

I was also asked to join the pit crew.  Now, many who know me know I am big guy–built like a house. Football was always my love but racing has really become so much to me in the past few years.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with these young guys and that my limited technical knowledge of racing would deter the team from making the strides and success they wanted for this year.  I was told I was the tire pressure guy!  It may not sound like much, but to me, you would have thought they asked me to drive the truck!

As the season has gone on, I have truly felt like part of the team, and I have enjoyed each and every week. The past few weeks have been very frustrating with the truck, and it seemed as if nothing has gone our way—even last week, we had to pack things up early and couldn’t start a race due to mechanical difficulties.   During the week between races, Josh, his dad and others on the crew did everything they could to figure out what was going wrong with the truck.

The upcoming race was very important as Anderson Speedway was allowing Families for HoPE to set up a tent at the track to honor Josh for his commitment to HPE as well as promote Josh as a driver.  This was a big race for all of us, and Josh’s success and reputation were on the line.

While the Families for HoPE volunteers were busy at the main gate passing out balloons, buttons, and “sharing the HoPE in HoloProsEncephaly”, the team was diligently working in the pits to make the truck as competitive as we could.  We didn’t have the qualification times we wanted, but everything was looking good.  We all felt relaxed and confident—everything just seemed to be clicking.  I don’t know how Josh was feeling, but I know he wanted to have a good showing.  If he was nervous, it didn’t show.  Josh was in his element signing autographs, meeting his fans, and telling them about Sammy and HPE.

When it was time for the 40-lap feature race for the trucks, Josh was on the outside of row two as the race started.  As our team watched Josh run his laps, we could all tell that the truck was handling like it should, and we had the horsepower–now it was up to Josh and the others on the track.  I think it was lap 15 when Josh took the lead, and for the next few laps, I kept asking God to let Josh have this one.  To let me have this one, to let the team and everyone involved have this one. We all needed it.

As the laps piled up and Josh pulled farther and farther away from the rest of the field, I felt pride.  The same pride I felt when Sam was born and the pride I felt for all of the things Sam accomplished in his short life.  It was all coming together, and I had a lump in my throat.

At lap 33 of 40, the team headed down toward the start/finish line as we knew a victory was in sight.  I don’t remember much when we were all running down there, except hearing the track announcer say “And, the winner is Josh Timmerman!”

As Josh emerged from the truck, I thrust my hands in the air with my fingers pointed to heaven and yelled as loud as I could, “This one is for you, Sammy!”  As Josh was interviewed over the public address system, he thanked Leslie and me, his parents and his team and his sponsors.  When he announced that the victory was dedicated to Sammy, the cheers from the crowd were amazing. You would have thought Josh just won a NASCAR race (that is hopefully in the future)!  We have lost many children in our HPE family this year, and it all cuts so deep into us.  On this night, this victory was for them, too!

I went out onto the track, and I immediately hugged Josh as hard as I could–almost like hugging Sam, because on this night, Josh made me as proud of him as I was of Sam.  Since Sammy passed, I have felt lost at times.  I miss the fellowship and interaction of us, Sam, the nurses and doctors who made up “Team Sammy Yammy” as we all ran like a well-oiled machine.  As Josh always refers to “we” when talking about the team, I’m so grateful to be part of another great team.  Overall, this night could not have been scripted any better.  Josh drove his heart out, and he was humble and professional in his acceptance and acknowledgment.

Thank you, Josh, for the victory!  This was your defining moment, and it was a privilege to witness it.  Thank you for being the caring man you are, and for allowing the HPE families to be part of your racing career.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of a team again and to find something that I was missing.  As Leslie said a few weeks ago, this year has been a building year to get ready for “09 in ’09”.  As I used to say about Sam, “Go, Sammy, go!”  That torch has been passed to you, “Go, Josh, go!”

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