The inaugural ELK Charity Challenge, staged last year in California, featured a genuine Batmobile. The second edition of the Everyone Loves Kids automotive adventure rally was staged last week, featured here yesterday, and took us from Dearborn, Michigan to Lake Placid, New York.
This time, the featured vehicle was the Back to the Future DeLorean. Stephen Wynne, who owns the car and the rights to put DeLorean back into production (which he plans to do after a new U.S. limited-production vehicle regulation goes into effect; there’s a counter on the New Delorean website that’s counting down the days) couldn’t make the trip, but he sent his car anyway and it was a hit at every stop along the route.
For at least three of our stops, “back to the future” was the theme of the trip for me. Indulge my trip back in time for a few minutes and I’ll explain why this ELK Charity Challenge trip was so emotional for me.
Lake Placid — Back in 1980, I was a daily newspaper sports editor and the Olympics correspondent for a group of eight papers in Michigan. I was covering the Winter Games and was there when Eric Heiden swept around the skating oval, when Leonhard Stock won the men’s downhill and it was party time at the Austria House, when Rodina and Zaytsev of the Soviet Union dominated pairs skating, and, yes, when the U.S. hockey team beat the USSR in the Miracle on Ice, and again two nights later when it beat Finland for the gold medal.
I hadn’t been back to Lake Placid since the Games, but somehow arrived early enough to wander inside the Olympic ice arena with no one else present except a man who was cleaning hallway walls. Memories came flooding back.
Corning, New York — I hadn’t been to the Corning Glass Museum since 1956, and it was not a happy visit. My Mom, Dad and I had been on vacation in New England and were on our way home with time for only one more stop. I so wanted to go to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Instead, we stopped at Corning.
It wasn’t until something like 50 years later that I finally got to Cooperstown, and not only did I enjoy the visit, but I got to see it through a grandson’s eyes as well. I guess I have to admit it was worth the wait.
And much to my surprise, I really enjoyed my second visit to the Corning museum, enjoyed it so much that after our official and all-too-quick tour and lunch, I delayed returning to the driving route so I could go back and see more of the amazing glass artwork.
Shriners Hospitals — The ELK rally raises money for three causes — St. Jude’s research hospital, Texas EquuSearch and Shriners Hospital. This year we stopped at the Shriners Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. Again, emotions flowed.
You see, I was a Shriners’ patient, at their hospital near Chicago, and except for an alumni day when I was in my early 20s, I hadn’t been back.
But when I was about 2 years old, I was a resident patient for several months, and a few years later spent a year and a half with a leg brace and crutches, and was back for checkups every six months until I was headed to college. I can walk today because of Shriners Hospitals.
At the hospital in Erie, and again that night at a concert downtown, we met Emily Mellish, a current Shriners’ patient who is overcoming her ailments with wonderful medical care and an amazingly positive attitude.
I remember so many Shriners patients who had similar attitudes. We received wonderful care, but also something else that in some ways was just as important — to never allow yourself to feel sorry for your situation because all you have to do is to look around to see someone with ailments much worse than yours. Handicap is not part of the vocabulary. I remember not liking crutches and my brace, but being glad that I had two legs and two arms.
I’ve always thought Shriners made it possible for me to walk. But I left the hospital with so much more than that, and so will Emily and the other Shriners kids.