Monday, May 5, 2008

Caden gets Bloomed

Caden spent a long weekend in Winchester, Virginia enjoying the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. Despite being totally off schedule with his naps and meals, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. There are nonstop activities, parades, celebrities, dances and vendors, a midway, a carnival, a circus, an arts and crafts fair, a car show, etc. The Tank even participated in a 10K race. The town increases in size tenfold and really decks itself out for the occasion. The festival colors are pink and green and this year's theme was "Get Bloomed". On Friday night there is a 3 hour Firemen's Parade and on Saturday there is a 4 hour Grand Feature Parade. Last year, all the noise from the firetrucks and bands during the parades scared Caden so I wasn't sure what to expect this time. But this was Caden's year. He waved to everyone in both parades, danced to the bands as they passed by and truly had more fun than anyone around even though he was running on fumes from skipping naps.

I have attended 38 Apple Blossom Festivals. I have seen celebrities such as Wayne Newton, Dan Akroyd and Mary Tyler Moore being cheered throughout the parade as well as sports greats like Willie Mays, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and many of my beloved Washington Redskins. The standout celebrity of all time for me was in this year's Festival. This year, I saw a hometown hero named Sterling Grooms ride in both parades and receive as much applause as Jerry Rice and Nadia Comaneci who also attended as sports celebrities. Sterling is a powerlifter and won FOUR medals (3 gold) at the 2007 World Special Olympics in Beijing. Shortly after he returned home, I happened to be in Winchester and visited the grocery store where he works as a cashier. His coworkers have filled the bulletin board over his shoulder with newspaper clippings about him:

Like Caden, he has Down syndrome but that did not take away from the celebration of his achievements. Wincester was genuinely proud of Sterling and I was genuinely proud of Winchester for it. They toasted him like any medalist from any Olympics should be toasted. I started crying as soon as I saw Sterling's vehicle in both parades approaching us and cried long afterwards. Accompanying Sterling the entire weekend was his coach, Tommy Kremer. Tommy volunteered his time and expertise to get Sterling prepared for the competition for over a year. Due to the expense of international travel, not all of Sterling's family or his coach was able to travel to China with him. After winning the gold medal in the Overall Powerlifting competition, Tommy was the first person Sterling called - even before his father. Though it was the middle of the night in the US, Tommy screamed with excitement at the news, waking his entire house.

During the second parade, the Grand Feature Parade, I scooped up Caden and ran into the street to hug both Sterling and Tommy for being such inspirations. Sterling has really raised the bar high for Caden's generation.

I tell ya, if central Pennsylvania doesn't celebrate Caden's accomplishments like this, I'm moving back to Virginia! Wouldn't that be awesome to see Caden ride in the Apple Blossom Parade one day? Just like Dorothy Hamill, Chevy Chase, Katie Couric, and Sterling Grooms.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

What a great story. Looks like you had an awesome time.

I wish I would have known you were in Winchester. Are you from the area? We live in Northern Virginia (Reston) and my parents live near Staunton. What a small world. Let me know if you are up this way again. Where are you in Central PA?

Matthew's Mom