Cruisin' for Wishes

Cruisin’ for Wishes
This article was published in Dayton Daily News on January 7, 2015

A Special Wish Foundation – Dayton Chapter (ASW) grants wishes to local children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, but what the organization receives back from many of these wish kids and their families is inspiring. New to the repertoire of events planned and organized by Wish Families is the Cruise the Gate Car Show. The Bridenbaugh Family of Brookville, OH held the First Annual Cruise the Gate Car Show last summer, to benefit ASW, at Golden Gate Park in Brookville. Inspired by their son Michael’s and another Wish Kid Amanda O’Dell’s, triumph over leukemia, Jennifer and Stefan Bridenbaugh started a now-annual car show.

“It all started because we wanted to pay back A Special Wish and provide the opportunity to another child who is struggling with an illness,” says Jennifer Bridenbaugh. “It was so nice to get away, relax as a family and have smiles instead of tears.”

Michael, born with Down syndrome, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and underwent extensive treatment. Qualifying for a Special Wish, Michael had a tough time picking just the right one.

“Michael doesn’t like crowds or to be around a lot of people, so we didn’t really know what to do,” said Jennifer. Michael has been a big fan of the Dukes of Hazzard ever since he was a little boy, according to his family. They have many pictures of him as a small child climbing into and out of cars via the windows. So, when Jennifer received an email from a friend about the First Annual Hazzard Homecoming, she knew right away that Michael would jump at the chance to meet the cast of Dukes of Hazzard.

“It was like it was meant to be,” said Jennifer.

Off the family went to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where the Bridenbaugh family enjoyed meeting the actors and seeing a sea of General Lees. Michael was in awe. He happened to meet another boy with Down syndrome, Chase, who lives nearby in Ohio. Chase graciously let Michael sit in his General Lee. A wonderful friendship with Chase and Michael’s second wish of owning a General Lee were born. His father, Stefan, promised Michael then that he would buy a General Lee when Michael defeated his leukemia. Thankfully, he is living cancer-free and is now a proud owner of a 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee. Wishes do come true.

Marrying the need to showcase this new car and the desire to pay it forward, the Bridenbaughs organized the First Annual Cruise the Gate Car Show in Brookville, Ohio. They reached out to the O’Dell family, the first people they met on their cancer journey, also from Brookville, and together they put together the car show, silent auction and organized a variety of vendors. It was a huge success. Doubling their goal of having 40 cars on display, over 80 cars were showcased and hundreds of visitors enjoyed a beautiful day in Golden Gate Park. They were able to raise over $3000 and sponsored a recent trip to Give Kids the World for another Wish Kid, Raygen.

“Next year we hope to fill the park,” says Jennifer Bridenbaugh.

Mark your calendars for Sunday, June 14, 2015 for the Second Annual Cruise the Gate Car Show and help the Bridenbaughs and the O’Dells reach their goal. You can see more pictures of the event and stay up to date on their Facebook page.

The Board and Staff of A Special Wish – Dayton Chapter, along with a multitude of volunteers, also organize fundraising events throughout the year. Coming up on February 13, 2015 is the Tenth Annual Valentines Dance. The Valentines Dance is the ASW’s signature annual fundraiser and for the first year will be held at the WSU Nutter Center. The dance includes the highly anticipated “Dancing with the Dayton Stars” where six local celebrities pair up with six professional ballroom dancers and compete for the coveted mirrored ball trophy. The champion is determined by audience applause. Needless to say the event is like no other in town. Along with the competition guests will enjoy a fun night with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, a silent auction and, of course, dancing to live music. Tickets are now on sale for the Valentines Dance. To reserve your seat or table for 10 call 937-641-4265. New to the events listing this coming year is the Superhero Donut 5K and Kids Fun Run. Presented by Bill’s Donut Shop, this new event will be held on Saturday, April 18th, 2015. Runners will start and end at Bill’s Donuts in Centerville and each Superhero will enjoy a delicious Bill’s donut at the finish line. Registration for the event will open on January 1, 2015. Register at or call 937-641-4265.

To find out more how you can organize an event to benefit A Special Wish – Dayton Chapter visit or call 937-223-WISH (9474.)