PLEASANTON — It did not matter what sport was in season. The answer for Jake Smith, 8, the past three years was always no.
Jake’s mother, Heidi Hess, dreaded the days when he brought fliers home from school that announced the upcoming sport. “It was heartbreaking every time he asked to do something. … It is really hard to tell a child no for something like that. Most kids can play sports, but he can’t,” Hess said.
Jake was born with underdeveloped lungs and has acute asthma; he has been in and out of the hospital since birth because of breathing issues that prevent him from prolonged physical activity. On Sunday, a group of East Bay parents — who had never met Jake or his family — finally gave him the green flag to play a sport.
The Livermore, CA based Tri-Valley Quarter Midget Association, and Jake’s local youth racing club “Good Times” in Madera, CA surprised Jake at the Goodguys 18th Summer Get-Together held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds with a car, engine, racing uniform and other racing fixings, all donated by club members.
“The president of our club asked if anyone could help this boy out, and it became this overwhelming gift to help this boy that nobody knew or had seen,” said Jenni Andreotti, who lives in Castro Valley. Her husband is vice president of the club, and her son races for it. “When I heard his story, I just started crying,” she said. “Then the checkbooks and donations started coming out.”
Jerry Beasley, president of Good Times – learned of Jake’s plight after the Madera second-grader attended the club’s annual Arrive and Drive event May 14. The event gives kids a chance to test out the sport.
It took 10 laps to hook Jake, who finally received approval from his doctors to participate. But despite his doctor’s approval and the OK from his mother, the costs of the sport — which start at upward of $2,500 — threatened to derail Jake’s dream.
A week later at a joint race in Livermore between the two clubs, Beasley asked for help. “The racing community is more like family,” he said. “Everyone is really involved and we want our kids to win, but most of all we want them to compete and have fun.”
Sunday at the Tri-Valley Quarter Midget’s race at the Goodguys Get-Together, Jake broke down in tears when the group presented him the car and gear. “I think he was overwhelmed,” said Hess, who kept the secret from her son for the past two weeks. “I am blown away. I am so thankful. I wouldn’t be able to do this without their help.”
For more information on the Tri-Valley Quarter Midget Association, go to www.tvqma.org.
This article was reprinted from the Monday, June 6th edition of the Contra Costa Times