First a little background....
As many of you already know CJ has served as the Ambassador for the Florida Panthers Foundation throughout this past NHL season. That relationship developed over the previous year as CJ served as their Honored Hero for their Light the Night Team. The Florida Panther Foundation is committed to supporting the pediatric cancer community and so are we so let's just say CJ and the Panthers make a great team and because of that they extended him the invitation to be their first ever Ambassador to represent their foundation's mission. As such, CJ participated in the foundations signature events. He was the keynote speaker at their Face Off Gala, was a part of the auction at the Ice and Dice fundraiser, did hospital visits with a player, and served as a junior reporter at the Foundation Golf Tournament.
Golf Tournament http://video.panthers.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=93
Then, a couple months ago I received an email from CJ's oncology clinic. In short, they were encouraging me to submit an application for CJ to serve as the National Youth Ambassador for the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program. They felt CJ would be an perfect fit for this position and already had experience because of the FL Panthers.
I was already familiar with the Hope on Wheels program because CJ had participated in local events when Hyundai came to South Florida during his treatments and I already knew I believed in what they are doing. In short, they grant millions of dollars to children's hospitals, clinics, and researchers across the country every year for pediatric oncology. I read about the position and learned that the youth ambassador position lasts two years and includes traveling with the Hyundai Hope on Wheels team across the country speaking at events, hospitals, Hyundai dealers and even in Washington DC. It is a huge commitment and an even larger opportunity. After receiving the email, I read more about it, prayed and entered CJ as an applicant for the position.
By now, you probably know where all this is leading. YES!!! After a national search, Hyundai has selected CJ as their NATIONAL Youth Ambassador for their Hope on Wheels Program for the next two years. They called and extended the invitation and supplied us with even more information to help us consider our answer.
After a family meeting and honest discussion, CJ accepted the position. He knows this is a huge commitment but feels like God has opened this door to this next step for him. Hyundai is not just interested in using his face on a billboard and his story as they travel across the country. They want his voice and his message. He will be traveling with them, speaking, encouraging and motivating both kids battling cancer and those involved in the Hope on Wheels program.
Interestingly, we also met with the Florida Panthers Foundation who wrote a wonderful letter of recommendation for CJ for this position. They also plan to keep CJ as their ambassador for the future season and are thrilled about his position now as a National Ambassador. Their support and encouragement means a lot to us.
As a result of his acceptance, last week we traveled as a family to California to the US Hyundai Headquarters where CJ delivered an introduction speech to the 350-400 Hyundai employees. He did amazing and we are very proud of him. If you have ever done any public speaking on any level I think you can relate to how nerve wracking, anxiety filled and emotionally draining public speaking can be. CJ has become more and more comfortable with this is the past two years as he has spoken at many many events from corporate meetings to large Gala's, schools and churches. But this was definitely the farthest he has ever traveled to speak and since this is a National position we know it is going to come with its own set of new challenges.
So here is the neat part and the big reveal. It is also how I knew God was 'in this' and pleased with our decision. I often ask for clues or a little sign of confirmation in my spirit or visually that will help me know we are on the right track and that God has covered it with His blessing. This is how I believe God chose to do that for me in this situation...... April 5th is CJ's 13th birthday. Well, April 5th also just so happens to be the the exact day that Hyundai goes public with their announcement at the New York City International Auto Show. They have invited the whole family to come and participate and CJ will speak at the event.
After that, the show literally hits the road between April and September ending full circle back in NY City at the very end of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. During those 6 months, CJ will commit to traveling and speaking in a minimum of 6-8 cities throughout the country representing the Hope On Wheels Program and sharing his story. And then do it all over again next year to all new cities.
So that is the big and exciting news. I just couldn't wait for it to go public to tell everyone. Once it goes public we will begin sharing more and posting updates and information publicly on facebook as will the Hope on Wheels campaign. On April 5th all their Hope on Wheels material will switch from their previous Ambassador over to CJ. All Hyundai dealers across the country will have his picture and materials in their stores. But most importantly, CJ will be sharing his story of healing and hope with hundreds of kids across the country battling cancer encouraging them in their battles.
Thank you for letting me share this exciting news with you. What I would want most is that you rejoice with us but that if you are willing you continue to cover CJ in prayer for this next season. He has not shown an interest or asked to stop sharing his story although many kids do after such long treatments. He seems to realize it is important and that... to whom much is given, much is expected. CJ knows he has been given much.
Secondly, I would ask that you keep in mind what the Lord has done here. Don't look at CJ and think, Wow! what an amazing young man. Look at God, and say Wow! What an amazing God we serve. REMEMBER...CJ was an anxious, shy, panic ridden, and extremely sensitive young boy before he was diagnosed. He also spent much time in speech therapy because most people could barely understand him. It was frustrating and if anyone told me then he would be a powerful public speaker effecting people's lives at the age of 12 I would have laughed pretty boldly and confidentially in their face.
God has used a serious trial to transform and mold him into a young man with a message and equipped him to share that message. No, He hasn't removed the fear or the anxiety but taught CJ how to deal with it and lean on Him for strength. That's not to say the old enemy doesn't come calling. There have been a few moments where I would have went toe to toe with the devil to get his hands off CJ if God would have only removed the veil so I could actually see him to get my hands on him. Obviously, God knew that wasn't such a great idea and my protective angry mommy heart was feeling a little more brave than it rightfully should with a request like that.
Those reminders are good I suppose because no matter how far CJ has come, I still stand amazed every time I sit in a room like I did last week and see CJ take the podium and deliver a well spoken clear and powerful speech. I don't see CJ standing there. I see an amazing God. I pray you do too.
And remember....Shhhh!!!! Until April 5th!
And remember....Shhhh!!!! Until April 5th!