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He’d like to be a Pepper too!

September 13, 2016

Every week, I call my college aged son.  I think it goes without saying, but I will say it anyways. I miss him. To play down how much I miss him, I always end the phone call with some snarky bit of wisdom akin to “Sawyer, just in case you didn’t know I have not changed my number.”  Otherwise, I might end the call in tears begging him to come home.  This of course, would be purely for my own benefit and definitely not his, because he is making a life for himself and establishing how he wants to be a powerful force for change in the world.  And while he is much like his paternal grandmother who isn’t much of telephone conversationalist, our chats are brief. Outside of that, when talking with him, I would say he errs on the side of understatement of how much good he has brought to the world so far.

Well, not his momma! I will gladly wear the hyperbole banner . . . because I can. I’m the mom!

There are things on social media that blow me away – like the Olympic moms’ commercials and other inspirational videos, but then there are the ones that make me shake my head. Usually they are in the “Are you sure you realized that you hit post?” category because I wonder what their mothers are thinking when and if they see it.

I know I was in that category last week, when I saw my sister-in-law liked a post on said college boy’s page.  What I read simply took my breath away.

In a really GOOD way.

My son, my version of the Boy Wonder, is vying for a full tuition prize through a contest with the Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corporation. In the competition, he has to describe how he would change the world.


First and foremost I don’t know what kind of future I can have other than one devoted to helping others. When I was a young kid I was severely injured and spent many months in the hospital. This experience has given me the drive to devote my life to using medicine to help improve the lives of others. Specifically by researching ways to combat AD. ~Sawyer S


I am sure my son was limited on space, but one can never discount his proclivity to understating the story.  So let me fill in the details.

In 2008, three of our four children were riding home on the school bus when the bus was hit.  In the aftermath of the crash, four children died (including our oldest son) and fourteen others were injured.  One of the seriously wounded was our Sawyer.  The crash left him with a head injury, bruised lungs, a lacerated spleen, a shattered left femur, a broken and dislocated right hip, and severe nerve damage.  That year alone he spent twelve weeks in and out of the hospital before he was well enough to attend the last five days of the school year . . . using a wheelchair because he was unable to walk for several years afterwards. He never complained and when they wouldn’t let him play football for the next 3 years, he took up guitar to keep himself busy.  He has endured more than most adults and is still a beacon of positivity.

Prior to the bus crash, we had been adopted, so to speak, by a sweet gentleman and grandpa in our church.  This gentleman designed and made elaborate woodworking creations.  When the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby rolled around, Sawyer asked Grandpa if he would help him and his dad with his car.  Let’s just say, I am not sure who was more proud of that winning car, Sawyer or Grandpa! When the bus crash happened, Grandpa was distraught over how he could help our family and asked his son and daughter-in-law to arrange to pay for the hotel room that we stayed in for the nine days we were there.  In the next year, Grandpa started to slowly fade away from us as Alzheimer’s disease – that cruel and wretched disease stole most, but definitely not all, of the amazingness of the man who loved us as his own. And in the final days, Sawyer never missed a chance to visit him.

So there is the AD piece, but let me tell you about my son.

When he says that he cannot imagine a life not devoted to serving others. This isn’t just lip service.  He means every word.  He hasn’t forgotten a single kindness extended to us or to him specifically since that awful day 8 years ago.  He has used every opportunity to give back and to serve as much as possible (even after having had over 30 surgical procedures since that awful day).  I know I’m his mom, but I would be following in his footsteps, if I didn’t use the word inspirational in the same breath as I use to speak his name. Some of my favorites of his kindnesses are inviting a special needs student to attend the prom with him and his date, writing letters and personally inviting every single responding unit to the bus crash (there were over 30) to attend his graduation, and taking time in the hall ways at school to high-five, hug, or “wrestle” around with elementary students. Once he enamored a whole passel of children at the community gardens so the parents could finish up harvesting.  There sat a big group of children mesmerized by the wonders of my Boy Wonder.

I’m his mom.  I can boast.  But remember I started with he’s not perfect, he doesn’t always call his mother, and I am not sure that elementary teachers enjoyed seeing him in the halls due to the melee that often ensued.

But now you see a piece of his heart and his love for serving others.

Then there is the aptness of the corporation sponsoring this contest.  About a week after the funeral services for our other son, we were trapped in a fog of grief, medical treatments, and generally being overwhelmed.  Add to this the nerve damage that Sawyer endured, we had a young man who writhed in excruciating pain 24 hours a day. Exhausted was the understatement of the century.  Thankfully, we live among amazing friends and neighbors who kept a vigilant watch over how to best help us.  One such evening, a neighbor popped over to check in on us.  She asked numerous times if there was anything she could do – right then – to help us.  What I lack in the trivialization department, I more than make up for in “I can do it myself” pride.  Several times, I assured her that we were fine.  As she got to the door, stepping into her winter boots and parka, she implored one last time, and just as I was about to stop her, my – at the time – little guy spoke up.

I could sure use a Dr. Pepper. 

As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

And Dr. Pepper he had! I should probably apologize to the truck driver because I think she perhaps hijacked a delivery truck. It was a moment that I have never forgotten.  Of all the things, he could have asked for to bring comfort, it was a Dr. Pepper.


I am including this picture – just in case he has forgotten what I look like. I am the one in sunglasses.

But in all seriousness, even on his moving back to college day, he proudly wore the shirt from the night he danced all night to support two little boys who require extensive medical care and he hates dancing.

This sweet boy of mine needs your help.  Please go to the link below and vote for him and ask your friends and neighbors and Boy Wonders to vote too. Help him to shine his light and use his potential to truly find a cure for the disease that took away one adopted grandpa so that no one else has to endure that pain.  And like the commercial from my youth used to say, I am pretty sure my son would love to “be a Pepper too!”






  1. Archbold, Molly permalink

    You are the sweetest mama I can imagine!! I proudly voted for your sweet Sawyer!

    You RE AN AMAZING INSPIRATION Miss Kandy! I feel your bleeding, proud-ness, love, and compassion for everything and everyone around you. Your kids are so lucky to have such a loving mom.

    Keep on keeping on!!!




    • Thank you so much Molly! And thank you for being an equally incredible, spunky, fun, and God-centered momma and FRIEND! So blessed that our lives have intertwined again! Much love – Kandy

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