ActivePaper Archive HOT CARS, COOL CAUSE - Oklahoman, 6/18/2017

HOT CARS, COOL CAUSE

Event helps sick kids, strengthens a father-son bond

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Eric Wynn, left, with his son, Chance, stand in front of Chance’s car at Saturday’s Redline4Kids event at Children’s Hospital. Redline4Kids is a new nonprofit that helps connect kids in the hospital with a chance to see cool cars. [PHOTOS BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

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Jonathan Kidd, 6, of Bethel Acres, takes this sports car for an imaginary “test drive.”

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Thomas Sutton, Jr., 13, of Enid, sits in the driver’s seat of David Geffre’s 360 Ferrari.

[PHOTOS BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

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Denton Padgett, 4, came out to see the cars in his wagon, pulled by his mom and dad, Ashley and Dustin Padgett, of Chickasha.

In one moment, Chance Wynn was a 4 year old celebrating at a birthday party with his family.

In the next, he spiked another mysterious evening fever and stiffened up in pain.

He asked his dad to help him try on the prized miniature Jeff Gordon racing suit and helmet he’d just gotten, but feeling so unwell, kept it on only long enough to glance in the mirror and see what he looked like.

Days later, Chance woke up unable to move and screaming in pain. His parents laid him in the back seat and rushed to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, hoping for answers.

There, Chance received a diagnosis that would change the trajectory of his life.

Dr. Marilynn Punaro, one of few pediatric rheumatologists in the country at the time in what remains a rare specialty, diagnosed Chance with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which is sometimes called Still’s disease.

“Your immune system is so hyper, it’s attacking your own body,” Punaro said.

The immune system attacks not only joints but internal organs, she said; untreated, it can lead to death, and in 1999, when she met Chance Wynn for the first time, few treatment options were available for children, she recalled.

Chance Wynn, now 21 and an employee at The Oklahoman, said growing up with an illness meant visiting hospitals more times than he can count for days of intravenous treatments. There were times he was in too much pain to walk, let alone play with friends. Immunosuppressant drugs meant a simple case of strep throat could have repercussions for a half year.

“But I never gave in,” he said.

A dozen years ago, the family moved to Oklahoma and treatment options for young patients improved steadily over the years, Punaro said.

Illness disrupted his son’s forays into baseball and racing, but never the way Wynn approached life, said Eric Wynn, 54, Chance’s dad.

Wynn carried his scared little boy through the doors of the hospital on the day Chance received his diagnosis. As his child grew, he hoped a positive mindset would hold up his son.

“As a parent, you don’t want that child to lose hope,” said Wynn, who also works for The Oklahoman. “If you lose hope, the ballgame’s over.”

Any time a doctor or coach instructed Chance on his limitations, dad would reroute, distract, focus on something positive.

And they both loved cars.

Passions and dreams

He’d ask Chance what kind of car he wanted when he grew up. Chance dreamed up a fast white car with red interior. He’d bring Chance toy cars to the hospital.

That passion for cars led Chance to dream up a new organization called Redline4Kids.

Its goal is to bring exotic cars to children’s hospitals, with the first event held Saturday at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.

Sara Jacobson is the director of child life and volunteers at Children’s who oversees hundreds of events for patients per year, from Thunder player and celebrity visits to concerts and in-hospital summer camp activities.

“All of these different activities help to normalize the hospital environment, make the kids focus on being a kid, learning and growing, and having fun,” Jacobson said.

The events aim to mirror anything a child might miss in the community or at school.

Exotic cars are a first, and a nice tie-in to Father’s Day weekend, she said.

“We’re really excited to do something different and new,” she said.

The first event was closed to the public but open to patients and their families. Participants got to sit in the vehicles and ask questions, learned facts about the cars, received a T-shirt to remember the day, and received a toy car of his or her own.

Chance said in advance of the event he expected 11 car owners to bring exotic vehicles, everything from a Lamborghini Huracan to a 2017 Nissan GT-R.

That last car? It’s white, with a red interior. Chance just bought it.

MORE ONLINE

To see more photos from Redline4Kids, go online to oklahoman.com.