To the Editor:
Captain Dan Dream Team and I are nearing completion of planning our 10th and final Captain Dan Days at Lucan. It is with mixed emotion we say this is the last event we host. We know that all good things must come to an end and a new chapter opens for us. I have always believed that from tragedy can come good, but we must find it thru the grace of God.
On December 25th, 2001, we celebrated one of the most perfect Christmas holidays ever, I remember thinking that night how lucky Terry and I were. Our five children were all home. Dominic age 5, received his first pair of wrestling shoes from his big brother Daniel. I will never in my life forget the look of pride as Daniel placed those shoes on his little brothers' feet and tied them up snug, then instructed Dominic to do a wrestlers stance. Three days later we were called to the horrific accident site to find our son. Terry is forever changed from that scene as he helped pick up his son to place on a gurney for his final ride to a funeral home.
I could tell you many very graphic scenes from that day, they do not leave our minds eye, we tuck them neatly away, but sometimes they have a way of rearing their ugly heads. It is times like that we lean on family and friends as we yet again tell them of our lost hopes, our fears, our angry, our uncertainty and again ask, why and what if?
Somehow through all of the fog, we have emerged and are stronger, more faith-filled than before the accident. We have gained so much through the loss of a son and brother. How can one gain through tragedy you might ask? Well through the grace of God, patience, kindness, understanding and the realization that it is okay to step out of the box and really just put your heart on the line, tell it like it is, if you don't want to hear it, then don't ask. If you listen you just might realize that you feel the same or that you are one very lucky person to have not experienced the loss of a child or brother. Sometimes you need to hear and see the ugly to help me. Sometimes I just need to say it out loud. It is okay for me to do that and it is okay for you to listen and not have an answer. I did not choose this path, it choose our family, but we do have faith that we are not alone, Jesus is always here and He will guide us if we just listen and take His hand.
A young lady emailed me today and asked, "Laurie, why is this the last Captain Dan?" my answer to her was simple, "Christina, it is the last one because in May of 2002 I promised myself I would do this for 10 years, it is 2011 and we did it, we reached our goal. I am happy to say we have touched many lives and in turn many lives have touched us. "
In January 2002, Minneota's Ryan Fier gifted his Championship Section 4A medal to our son Brandon. It was a gesture that will forever be etched in our hearts and minds.It was an act of kindness, sportsmanship, respect and an act of love. Both boys had lost a brother and gained a deep friendship. Ryan was a champion on the mat that day, but remains a champion in our hearts forever.
Captain Dan event 2002, first event is held at Lucan city park, $18,000 is raised, a $15,000 Endowment fund is established at SMSU, later a $14,000 Endowment fund is established in Wabasso/Lucan area. The event was a success and thus was born the 2nd, 3rd and so on to now the 10th and final event.
Spring of 2002, the Mustang wrestlers, Dan Snobl and Coach John Sterner moved a massive oak tree to our farm to plant in tribute to their teammate Dan O.
Spring of 2002, Daniel's cousin, Jason come to our farm and built a stone wishing well that Daniel had planned to build for me for Mother's Day.
Captain Dan event 2003, after balloon release, a man approaches me arms open wide, he takes me by the shoulders and looking directly into my eyes he says, "thank you for allowing me to remember, I was told I needed to forget" I watched him walk away, his head bowed and tears streaming down his cheeks, his body trembling. I later learned he lost a child 50 years earlier to a farm accident and never cried over his son. I have since visited with him and learned the boys name and some of the fun antics the child like to pull. He was real and will never be forgotten.
Captain Dan event 2005, as ceremony is about to begin the guests are all looking up into the sky, Shannon comes to me, tears in eyes and says," Laurie, look up! An eagle is circling the park directly overhead!" That was a powerful moment for me, as I believe deep in my heart that my son now soars on the wings of eagles in the presence of the Lord.
Captain Dan event 2006, my daughter, Lt. Andrea Ourada and I requested a Blackhawk fly in and it was granted. Amazing sight to have a Blackhawk circle the little park of Lucan, hover and then set down in park.
Captain Dan event 2007, We decide to release doves in tribute to our soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice, we invite families who have lost sons to the war. We also invited the Patriot Guard Riders to come and stand flagline at our event in tribute. 125 motorcycles and their PGR riders wearing leather and patches representing their pride in America. I remember standing on the street that day as they came in and I cried in joy and disbeliefthey came to support us and they came because we asked them too. I asked for a few and got 125. The Lucan park was filled with a sea of red, white and blue that afternoon. This was also the day Terry and I decide we will join the PGR.
Captain Dan event 2008, we meet the most amazing families in the JOS. Marty/Rita, Charlie/Traci and Dan/Kandy. They suffered a great loss when Hunter, Jesse, Emilee and Reed died in the bus accident at Cottonwood. But again our gain is the strong friendship we have embraced in each other. All it took was one phone call to invite them to come release a balloon in memory of their child, our chain again grows
Dec. 12, 2009, a Christmas wreath is quietly placed at Daniel's gravesite with a note saying, "Terry and Laurie, we knew you couldn't make it out to Dan's gravesite today, so we remembered to stop. This was Daniels' sister Andrea's wedding day.
Holidays find memorials placed at his gravesite and at the wishing well, reminders that he will never be forgotten. Even though it has been nine years he is gone, we still love hearing his name and just knowing he is not forgotten.
Captain Dan event 2010, Freedom flight hotair balloon comes to Lucan and again we have done something in our parks history that has never been done before. The balloon is launched and many folks got a short ride up and over park to get a birds eye view. The pilot and his wife are amazed by our small town event and offer to help with inflating 500 balloons for release. They come back the next day for ceremony and get to meet Elizabeth Strofus WW11 Female Pilot our guest speaker.
Captain Dan event 2011 will end as it started, softball, volleyball, beanbag tournies in park, grilling burgers, DJ music with surround sound in park, Larry Mages band , kids playing games, and then remembering our loved ones with a balloon and dove release. We will be remembering and paying special tribute to SPC James Wertish. His parents Dave and Kim will release a dove in tribute to him and all who have who given the ultimate sacrifice. We have asked 6 families to release doves to remember our loved ones. The event has always included everyone, it is not and has never been just about Daniel, we embrace and celebrate all loved ones.
My highlights are the people who have touched our hearts, people who believed in me when I asked for support whether it be in form of physical help or donation of goods or dollars.
We have done some memorable things, you our guests have all touched our hearts and we promise to be your anchor should you need one.
Please know and believe we will never forget our son or your loved ones. They are real, they are forever etched in your heart and always a part of your family, continue to remember them through celebration of life, keep laughing, keep smiling, take time to cry, to remember, but most of all, please always listen with your heart.
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible."
- Helen Keller
We have renamed our last event, "The Last Hurrah" Captain Dan Days is May 14-15 at Lucan City parkcome help us celebrate life.
Captain Dan Dream Team, Inc.