Theodore’s mom, Voula, had invited all her friends and family to support her son in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Walk for LOVE, so she knew a lot of folks would be participating. She is still in awe because on that Sunday, the morning of the walk, more than 60 supporters showed up.
“It was just so overwhelming, all the love we felt,” the Daytona Beach mother of three said when she saw all the people wearing t-shirts identifying themselves as “Team Theodore.”
Their team alone raised more than $6,000 to help 5-year-old Theodore and other children receiving expert care for orthopaedic issues, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate at 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children locations across North America, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Theodore’s medical journey began when he was born with a genetic condition called hereditary multiple exostoses (HME), which causes abnormal bone growth. Exostoses typically occur at the end of long bones during childhood and adolescence. The growths form “spurs,” which can cause pain and hinder motion, but many treatment options are available. Theodore has been a patient at the Tampa Shriners Hospital since 2015.
Theodore, his siblings and parents recently participated in the five-day Imperial Session of Shriners International, which is where approximately 1,200 people participated in the Walk for LOVE – either by walking, riding a motorcycle, or driving a car on the speedway. The Shriners International fraternity founded the hospital system in 1922 and are proud leaders and supporters.
Voula said her son’s brown eyes widened at the prospect of being able to step onto the asphalt track at the Daytona International Speedway. He stared it through the window of the 500 Club moments before the walk began. “He had been to the (Coke Zero 400) the week before and had seen the Shriners race car,” she said. In addition to enjoying the walk of a lifetime, Theodore also gained a new friend and role model.
Patient ambassador Riley, 16, was born with the same condition as Theodore and was quick to show him how bright his future can be. Hand-in-hand, young man and little boy made their way around the race track.
“They bonded almost instantly,” Voula said.
She also found a soulmate in Tina, Riley’s mom. The two found they shared similar interests, but more important, Voula said she gained a confidant and someone who could provide support and share information about the condition their sons share.
“We know we’re not alone,” Voula said. “We’re surrounded by love. We have a family in Shriners.”
Pictured: The 60 members of Team Theodore raised more than $60,000 at the 2017 Walk, Ride or Drive for LOVE