Monday, December 30, 2013

Home Sweet Home To Me!

It is no secret that our family loves the Tennessee Volunteers and that we consider East Tennessee our second home.

At the beginning of September, we were asked if Beads of Courage could use one of Tucker's 4 year pictures in their campaign to encourage people to carry Beads when they compete. Of course we said yes and, after doing a little research, I decided that I would try to get the University of Tennessee to participate in the program.

I had a tremendous amount of luck in this effort and the UT athletic department was very interested in learning more and possibly having some players carry Beads of Courage.

Tennessee Team Beads of Courage
Fast forward to November, where Tucker was invited by Beads of Courage and the Vols football team to attend the last home game of the season as a representative of Beads of Courage. We didn't hesitate to pack our bags and head to Knoxville.

We arrived at Neyland Stadium after lunch on November 23rd for the game against Vanderbilt, the last home game of the year, senior day. We checked out some of the tailgate parties and Tucker danced to the music. About an hour and a half before kickoff, we made our way down to the stadium for the Vol Walk. We waited and watched as the coaches, players, cheerleaders, and band paraded past us ALL of them wearing Beads of Courage. Tucker got to "high-5" some of the players and coaches as they passed.

Tucker at the Vol Walk
After the Vol Walk, we were escorted through the player's tunnel and onto the field for pre-game warmups. We got to hang out on the sidelines while the players got ready for the game. There was music blaring and Tucker had a great time. He had a dance-off with Smokey, the Vols' mascot, and got to meet a few of the players. Michael Palardy, the kicker, came over and talked to Tucker for a few minutes during warmups. He knew Tucker by name and was awesome with him. Michael is definitely a favorite of ours from now on.
Tucker & Michael Palardy
Tucker telling Michael his age
We took a ton of pictures and made memories that will last a lifetime, doing something that not many people get to do. After warmups, we made our way to our seats to watch the game. It was a 7pm game and it was cold in Tennessee. By halftime, Tucker was very cold so we decided to watch the rest of the game from the hotel room. He was asleep before we left the parking garage. 

It was an amazing day for Tucker and for us. I don't think there is any doubt that Tucker is a Tennessee fan now and he sings "Rocky Top" almost daily.

The next day we traveled south to Whitwell, TN to see some of Dena's family. It was great to catch up with them and for Tucker to get to see where his Papa grew up.

It was a fast trip that covered a lot of miles, but it was worth every minute of it. We left Texas on Thursday afternoon and were back at home by Monday night.

We are very excited to know that every single Bead that was carried that night will give enCouragement to a child fighting CHD or cancer. Tucker's story helped make it happen and he continues to get to bless others.

Tucker meeting Smokey
Tucker & "The Real" Smokey

We are eternally grateful to Ashely from Beads of Courage and Antone Davis and the University of Tennessee Athletic Department for making it all possible. 

"Rocky Top will always be home sweet home to me!"