Racing Earnhardt Jr. a dream come true for Kettering boy

Racing Earnhardt Jr. a dream come true for Kettering boy

This article was published in Dayton Daily News on October 29, 2014

When it is NASCAR race day, one thing for sure is that eight-year-old Gavin and his father, Kendall, will be in front of the family television rooting for #88 to take the checkered flag. When it comes to racing, Gavin and his dad agree on one thing, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is their guy!

Gavin is just like most boys his age. He loves sports, video games and playing with his friends, but since birth Gavin has also been fighting cystic fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an estimated 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide) have CF and approximately 1,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Living with CF is a tough battle, but Gavin has gallantly pushed through the challenges presented by the disease. In January of 2014, Gavin’s grandmother contacted A Special Wish Foundation – Dayton Chapter to refer her grandson to receive a Special Wish. The wish would be a grand reward for his determination and bravery in fighting CF. When Gavin was ask what he wanted his wish to be he quickly answered, “I want to race Dale Earnhardt, Jr!”

The planning of the wish was handled by A Special Wish Foundation and the team at JR Motorsports. Mr. Earnhardt and his team went above and beyond any expectations to ensure Gavin would have the experience of a lifetime. The wish trip was scheduled for August 5 – 9, 2014 and the big race took place on the 6th. Gavin and his family (dad, Kendall, mother, Nicole, and younger sister, Zoe) arrived in Huntersville, NC and were instant celebrities. The employees of the Hampton Inn and Suites threw a welcome party upon their arrival and provided the family with “I raced Dale Earnhardt, Jr.” t-shirts, their favorite treats and a collection of movies to watch while enjoying their suite. Merchants of the town also donated gift cards and passes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

On the morning of August 6th, Gavin and his family arrived at JR Motorsports. He and his sister were greeted with two big gift bags full of gifts and then escorted to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s home where Gavin would soon face off with #88 on the racing legend’s world-class go-kart race track. Upon arrival at Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s home, Gavin finally met his racing hero and, if the smile on his face was any indication, it was a dream come true. Gavin was able to spend time with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. prior to the race and according to Gavin’s father, Kendall, “Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was fantastic and one of the nicest guys in the world. He answered all of Gavin’s questions and autographed anything Gavin asked him to sign. He even gave Gavin the helmet he wore during the Daytona 500.”

Even though Gavin had a great time talking with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., there was some unfinished business…go-kart racing. Gavin chose his go-kart and joined Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR racer, Regan Smith, and two other friends of Mr. Earnhardt on the track. After a few warm-up laps, the green flag was raised. Gavin stormed out to an early lead, but Jr. came roaring back. It was a tight race, with both of them neck and neck, trading the lead back and forth, and as they approached the checkered flag, Gavin broke away from the pack to claim the win. Following his victory, Gavin and his family were treated to lunch with the JR Motorsports team, toured the property and had a chance to play in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Old Western Town. “Watching Gavin smile, was the highlight of the trip,” said dad Kendall, “he was so happy and we were treated so nicely by everyone. The trip was more than we could have ever wanted or wished for.”

Gavin summed up his Special Wish trip by adding. “I’m having trouble putting how much this means to me into words and how nice everyone was to me. I will remember this for the rest of my life. Thank you so so so much.”

Since, 1984, A Special Wish Foundation – Dayton Chapter has granted over 1,600 wishes to local children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disorder. The chapter is the only wish-granting organization located in the Dayton region and serves children in Montgomery, Darke, Mercer, Miami, Greene, and Shelby counties. To refer a child or find out more about to A Special Wish Foundation – Dayton Chapter call 937-223-WISH (9474) or visit

A Special Wish Foundation – Dayton Chapter will host the 2nd annual Special Wish Run 5K and Walk on Saturday, November 1 at Island Metro parks. Registration is open, call 937-223-WISH (7494).