On Friday, October 19th, a very special event happened at Wilmington Christian Academy. It was one of the triumph’s that have come from our tragedy. One of those days when you feel good again, a day when you know you are doing the right thing. A day when the tears that fall from your eyes meet the corner of a smile because you can literally see the joy in someone else’s heart for what you have done.
This day began more than six months ago when the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation was in the planning stages for it’s annual volleyball tournament at Catp’n Bill’s. Little did we know that on the day we planned the volleyball tournament we would have a very unwanted visitor to the coast of North Carolina the weekend prior, hurricane Florence. What could have been a very bad day turned into a very good day for all the charities the foundation is involved with. We only had 6 teams register for the tournament but we had a very good turn out and everyone there bought raffle tickets, 50/50 tickets, LMBF merchandise and just donated because they felt the need to. This year, the tournament was on Lindsay birthday, September 29th, so we knew in our hearts it was going to be a good day no matter what. One of the charities the foundation supports is “Patriots for Pink.” This is usually a week long fundraiser at Wilmington Christian Academy in which the student body adopts someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer. For an entire week they raise money for the newly adopted member of the Patriot Nation. The school works along side a wonderful organization, Going Beyond the Pink, created by Joy Wade in 2017. Not only does Going Beyond the Pink financially assist throughout the process of treatment, they are there before to educate women and men, and they are there after the war has been won with continued support. The schools week long fund raiser was spoiled by of course, hurricane Florence. A few of the buildings on campus were no match for Florence’s driving winds and rain and sustained quite a bit of damage. In true WCA fashion, they did not let this set back stop them from doing what the Patriot Nation does, they persevered, they trusted God and they made it happen. Wilmington Christians week of games, T-shirt sales, theme days and candy sales had been condensed into just one day, just a few hours. This relentless student body and staff set out to do all they could to compress one week into a single soccer game. We were invited to present a donation from the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation at halftime for Patriots for Pink. When we arrived it was a sea of pink. There were pink T-shirts, pink hair, pink faces, and of course the familiar pink ribbons. Soon after we arrived we met with Mrs. Bordeaux, from WCA, and with Joy Wade to discuss how and when we would present the check. As we were talking a very young lady began to walk toward us, with her dog by her side. Joy spoke up and said. “This is Kim J and Alex. She is what today is all about.” As we met Kim and began to hear her story I was amazed at her smile, and her attitude toward life and this horrible disease. When we, as a foundation, present a donation we use a large check so we can write out who the donation is going to. Believe me it is very hard to walk around hundreds of people carrying this check and trying to keep the amount hidden. As halftime of the soccer game approached we made our way to sidelines close to mid-field. We continued to talk to Kim about her journey through this disease, I kept noticing one thing, she never stopped smiling. As the game clocked ticked down to zero we made our way onto the field along with 98 very young cheerleaders that had attended cheer camp at WCA that week. Mrs. Bordeaux took the microphone and began to tell everyone in attendance why we were all standing together. She told the large crowd about Kim and her fight and she told everyone about Lindsay and the foundation that bares her name. Next Joy Wade told what Going Beyond the Pink is all about, and then she turned to us to present the donation. As Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, and I turned the check around and held it for everyone to see every face began to light up with surprise. Not only were we there holding that check, but every single person that bought a raffle ticket, every sponsor, everyone that gave their time and money, everyone that bought a LMBF T-shirt or hat was there through their wonderful donations. Because of all the love and support we received this year the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation was able to present a check for $5,000.00 to this amazing young lady through Patriots in Pink. Kim J was still smiling and turned to me to say, “That is wonderful for the foundation and all the other patients.” I replied ” Ma’am this is all for you.” She still looked a little confused and still did not grasp that this entire day was for her. She did not know the check we were presenting, the T-shirt sales, the money taken up at the gate and all the other donations were for her. Joy turned to Kim and told her “All of this is for you Kim. You will not have to worry about paying your rent for a while, you will not have to worry if you have enough money for gas. You don’t have to stress about finances for a while, you can concentrate on healing.” After that statement, it sunk in, Kim J finally realized today was all about her. You could see the joy in her face, you could see the stress leave her body and you could see the tears begin to flow from her eyes. I know in my heart the school made the right choice by picking this humble young woman for its adopted patient this year. God bless you Kim J, continue smiling and continue fighting like a girl. Continue fighting each battle so in the end you can win the war.
This did not end the day for me personally. Remember the 98 very young cheerleaders that took the field at halftime? Well, along with these very young ladies were the Lady Patriot Cheer Squad. They, along with Coach Rickard, had been working with these young girls and now they were all on their knees leading these ladies in the cheers they had learned. As I sat watching all the parents, every one of them smiling as they waved to there little one’s, all could see was Lindsay. I could remember watching her sit on her knees leading the little ones. I can remember how she would smile as she worked with these aspiring future Lady Patriots. It brought a smile to my face, but it also brought a tear to my eye. As I sat and watched all the cheerleaders I took a peek to the heavens and gave Lindsay a quick wink because I knew she was right there watching every move they made. I hope she enjoyed watching and I hope she is proud of each of us for carrying on her name and her legacy.
I get asked questions all the time about Lindsay, starting a fund for cheer and art at WCA, starting a scholarship, starting the foundation, writing a blog, and now having a published book. There seems to always be, somewhere in the conversation, this common question, “Do you regret starting any of this? It has to make it difficult keeping Lindsay, and her passing at the forefront of your life on a daily basis?” The answer is always the same, “Absolutely not.” The reason why, because it is truly days like October 19, 2018 that make me know in the deepest part of my heart and soul that we are, doing the right thing.