|Roland Bailey's Wish Comes True
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY-The roar of engines, the hot smell of high-tech fuel, and meeting one's favorite Nascar driver, Jeff Gordon just couldn't have been greater.
Roland Bailey's wish to meet and see his favorite driver race his famous Number 24 Nascar, seemed like an impossible dream.
But thanks to school nurse Pam Martin, who is also big into racing, Roland's name was turned in to the "Make-A-Wish" Foundation in October 2005.
After an interview in November, Make A Wish personnel said they would consider his case.
"But it was not until just about two weeks ago that we found out anything," Roland's dad, Mark said.
Bailey is the children's minister at First Baptist Church, Eustace. He said he received a call to come and speak to the children at Roland's school.
"Before I could begin my talk, someone said 'we're not here for that' and then people from Make-A-Wish came out on stage," he said.
Roland was there and his sister, 12-year-old Reba was also present.
"Then people just started coming out of the woodwork, It was a complete surprise to us all," Bailey said.
"Roland was really surprised to find out he was going to get to meet Gordon," Mark recalled.
"He didn't want to fly so we drove out to Fontana, near San Bernadino, where the California Speedway is located," Mark said.
The whole family made the trip, Mark and his wife Holly, who teaches Head Start in Eustace and Reba.
Roland not only got to meet his favorite driver, he also met Chip Foose, the designer of Gordon's car, and another driver, Tony Stewart, who presented Roland with a cap.
"He got to see the cars in the garages where they were being worked on, the car haulers and the races, both the Bush race and the Nextel race," Mark explained.
Roland likes racing because he has a favorite uncle, Mark's brother, Kevyn Bailey who races dirt track in Tyler.
"We try to go every weekend. Kevyn bought me a car and now we plan to race at the same track in different classes," Mark said.
"Roland wants an extra seat built in for him to ride in," he added.
"Make-A-Wish did make his dream come true - not just for Roland - but for the family," Mark said.
"We couldn't have done it without all the support and donations from everyone. We really want to thank those who helped us with our adventure. We all needed that," he added.
Another gift, by an anonymous donor, was quite a surprise. It consists of a table made from one of the wheels from Gordon's car, using pistons as legs.
Roland suffers from DeShind's muscular dystrophy, a type that affects one of every 3,000 boys.
He is now wheelchair bound for the rest of his life, which the medical community says is approximately into his mid 20's.
Mark is employed at Groom & Sons Home Center.
He said there is one other boy in the area with the same affliction his son has.
"Everyone please support the Muscular Dystrophy of America (MDA). This is something I can't fix. MDA is providing needed research for the disease," he explained.
People wishing to donate to MDA can buy a "Shamrock at Groom's for a $1, that will also entitle the donor to a free hamburger from Sonic.