“Made in the Shade” Game Night

Shade in shades

Join Shade Crampton for “MADE IN THE SHADE” GAME NIGHT

What: Made in the Shade Game Night
When: Monday at 7 p.m. Schedule will be posted on http://shadesprogress.com
Location: Quest Church, 1450 Citrus Oaks Ave, Gotha, FL 34734
Second floor of main church building in the lunchroom.
There’s plenty of parking next to the church.

“Made in the Shade” Game Night is open to anyone tween and up who likes games: high schoolers, middle schoolers, adults, 500-year-old vampires, intelligent alien life forms, bigfoot. As long as you like to play, you can come. Feel free to bring your own games, too. We can play in big groups and in small groups or just one on one.

We also want to encourage folks with disabilities to come play with us. This night is especially for you to meet other like-minded people and have a little fun. If you know someone with a disability that might enjoy this night, bring them along.

What kind of games will we play? Board games, Minute to Win It games, card games, guessing games, mind games, drawing games, strategy games, goofy games, roll playing games, dice games, you name it. Shade wants to play all sorts of games and he wants you to play them with him. (Okay, we won’t be playing video games because we can’t afford to buy 20 Xboxes. Plus, we want to interact like social humans.)

We will put a donation jar out each week. If you feel like donating a little money, we’ll use that to buy different games for future weeks. No pressure though.

Email Vcrampton@gmail.com for more information.
Or check http://shadesprogress.com for schedule.

About Shade Crampton: Shade suffered a stroke in 2001 at the age of 12 and a couple more in 2016 at the age of 17. He uses a wheelchair to get around. He has memory and processing issues and has trouble using his left arm and standing. But he’s a smart, hilarious, down-to-earth teen, who won’t let something as trivial as a debilitating stroke get in the way of his fun. He’s a whiz at backgammon and he knows every single Pokemon on the planet. He wanted to start this game night so other people, with and without disabilities, can socialize and have fun. Come out and join us.

Read more about Shade’s battle and triumphs at http://shadesprogress.com

Rainy Day

Zipping across Lake Down

Zipping across Lake Down

There’s an old Taoist tale about a farmer talking to his friend about how he got a new horse, to which the friend said, that’s good, to which the farmer said, it kicked my son in the leg, to which the friend said, that’s bad, to which the farmer said, then the army came conscripting boys but they wouldn’t take my son off to war because of his broken leg, to which the friend said, that’s good, and so on, ad infinitum. The basic idea is everything just happens. It’s a great philosophy for taking the power out of bad news and making everything all right.
Shade, Mayan and I were invited out on a boat with friend Todd Howell and his son Braden. To IMG_8239prep, I showed the boys “I’m on a Boat” by Lonely Island. Definitely not appropriate for children. The boat was a family heirloom. Had some years on it, but was well maintained. We headed to Todd’s at 10 a.m. and the rain had already started. We hung out for an hour and it poured harder. We hopped in the van and headed out around 11 a.m.

By the time we pulled up to the boat ramp on Conroy-Windermere IMG_8183Road, the rain was in auto-pour mode. By the emptiness of the parking area, it was apparent many boaters had given up. We checked the sky and there were some questions of whether we should go out. But we said, “Shoot, we’re already here. What’s a little rain? Let’s do it.”

Todd gunned it and we were whipping across the water, needles of
rain piercing our clothes. Shade took off his shirt to let the drops IMG_8224sting him. I gave him glasses to keep it out of his eyes. We had the lake practically to ourselves. At one point, in the middle of Lake Down, Todd stopped the boat and the boys jumped into the water with life jackets on. I think the distance from shore made them nervous because they swim great without them. It was still drizzling, but the air was warm and the lake was like bath water.

We got the boys back in. The rain let up. We headed down the canal that connects Lake Down to IMG_8233Wauseon Bay. It felt a bit like a scene from Apocalypse Now as we puttered under the canopy of cypress, the boys standing on the bow, checking out the weeds flowing underneath. Halfway down on the left was a side canal. Todd steered down here. Back in sixth grade I used to live on this canal. We pulled up to the back of my old house. I showed my boys where I fished for brim. A gar stole my rod off that bank once. Shade and Mayan got to connect a little with my history, just like I did back in England earlier this year with my dad and brother.

IMG_8248Eventually we got out to Lake Butler and pulled up to Bird Island, a bird sanctuary out in the middle. Boaters anchored in the shallows of this cypress stand to chill or barbecue or jam out to Led Zeppelin. We anchored and jumped in. I gave the boys goggles and they swam after bass back and forth under the boat. Shade was in his element. He can hold his breath twice as long as me. The water got smooth. No wind, no wakes. A boat pulled out from between the half submerged trees, towing two lumberjack-looking dudes. They went zipping back and forth across the lake.

By this time, the sun was pushing some light through the gray clouds, just enough to warm the air and cast a glow over the forest. I got a picture with my boys. I’m lucky to have them and I told them so.

IMG_8253That was a perfect day. And it wouldn’t have been if we hadn’t just gone with it. The rain isn’t good or bad. The rain just is. I’m trying to live by this philosophy though I fall short a lot of times. Impatience is my biggest hurdle. But hey, it’s the journey not the destination, right? I think that since Shade’s stroke, our journey has been more adventurous. We’ve had a fantastic journey so far. And as long as I can collect some great times like this along the way, the rain is all right with me.

Come to Compassionate Hearts annual fundraising event

Not sure if you noticed the recent edition of Lifestyle Magazine (pg. 16), but Shade is in there. It’s a little piece about an upcoming fundraiser event being thrown by the Compassionate Hearts at Holy Family Catholic Church on November 17 from 6:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. This is their annual fundraiser and this year they have three beneficiaries: Simon Stock Dharmakirthi, David Fraser, and the Shadenator. It’s a big gala-type affair with a performance of Tony Brent’s Outta Control Magic Comedy Show, lots of food, caricature artists, face painters, silent auction, raffle, dancing, DJ and more. Some delicious food will be served by local restaurants, and you can finish up with a sundae at their very own ice-cream parlor. It’s very affordable considering the stuff you get. $20 per person/$10 for kids or you can buy a whole table for your family/company/Greco-Roman wrestling team. Click here to download all the info. Hope to see you there.

Zombie Taco Cat

Can you hear that howling? No, that’s not Aitza after Shade accidentally steps on her mangled, detached toenail. That’s the sound of Halloween in the air. I can feel my were-cells starting to mutate.

Not quite finished Zombie Taco Cat

In preparation, I’ve started constructing Shade’s costume. In true goofy fashion, Shade decided to be a Zombie Taco Cat. This freak-show abomination, created in my own basement laboratory (yes, I have a Florida basement), is the genetic splicing of a zombified human, your common domestic Felis catus, and a savory, crunchy Mexican entree. I’ve already applied the giant crispy tortilla shell to his spare wheelchair. That took a lot of tortillas. I’m going to wait until the night before Halloween to cook up the 50 lbs. of ground beef to pour on him. Otherwise, he might start to stink.

Talking about Halloween, our Indian Guides program is involved in our Halloween carnival tonight. We have tons of games, bounce houses, silent auction, cake walk, an extremely scary haunted house, and this year, a special storytelling show with Chief Jack-O-Lantern. (Yes, I am Chief Jack-O-Lantern.) My show will have stories, songs, jokes and interactive pieces for the kids. Highlights will include an Interview with a Zombie and The Man Eating Chicken! And remember the song “Great Green Globs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts”? That’ll be in there, too.

I was asked to do a show as an alternative to the haunted house because allegedly we scare the poop out of little kids. Last year, a mom came up to one of the dads, Tony, and screamed at him for psychologically scarring her kid. I’d say that’s a resounding endorsement for our haunted house. This year, we’re doing a haunted circus theme with tons of evil clowns. Everyone loves clowns, right?

If you have kids, come to the Dr. Phillips YMCA tonight from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for a terrifyingly fun time. (Yes, that was a commercial.)

I had the Stride of my life

Shade’s Super Stride 5K went off without a hitch, except for a few hitches of my superhero tights, which tended to bind. Aitza and I had been worried sick by the details of event, and I couldn’t sleep the night before. It’s the mystery of the unknown. Will anyone actually show up? Will it run smoothly?

Next morning, I pulled up in a mini-van at Blanchard Park YMCA under the stars and unloaded boxes of sodas (thanks Scott Fischer) and yogurts and heart-shaped donuts (thanks Linda). It turned out that the donuts were unglazed and thus actually just fried bread. (In other words, without the super-sweet glaze, donuts are not quite donuts!) But no one turns down free food.

Our YMCA liaison, Matt Libby, who happens to be the husband of Shade’s OT, Kristen, (and who saved our butts when we discovered  all the permits and BS involved in 5K organizing) helped us get tables and equipment out of the Y. Meanwhile people started streaming into the parking lot. The set up was fairly simple as we placed all the food and equipment on park benches near the entrance and Aitza started taking donations.

Matt hooked us up with his assistant XXXX ( I can’t remember his name so he’s officially XXXX), who unlocked the park gate and put tables and the water cooler in his truck to take to the 1 mile point so we could set up a drinks area. Friend Paul Batt hopped in the truck with us to help set up the tables. The drop off point was at the other entrance to the park nearly a mile away, which was locked. I found half a dozen people, like friend Tom Landreth, milling about in that parking lot, wondering where the start area was. I redirected him and the others back out to the main road and around to the front. (Lesson learned: GPS is an evil temptress. Better to follow a map.) After Paul and I set up the table and cooler, I turned to jump back in the truck, but XXXX had left me behind. Just then, Aitza called my phone. “Baby, I need you now!” she said as I watched XXXX’s truck lights fade into the distance. Damn. I left Paul to fill the water cups and started running at top speed to the other end of the park. As I ran up to the park benches where Aitza and the arriving racers were organizing, my brother Darren yelled, “Yay! The Winner!” I realized I had made pretty good time when Tom walked from the parking lot and said, “How the hell did you beat me here?”

By this time the crowd was getting big and included a number of canines. Aitza and plenty of volunteers helped stuff bags with Shades for Shade, Ear Buds supplied by Performance Press, and cool Shade’s Super Stride shirts supplied by Nathaniel Treat and printed by Performance Press. My buddy Michael Bartole, who used to be a student of mine, had a bunch of water bottles printed with our logo at his business Graphic Labels. We even had 5 Hour Energy Drink supplied by one of my clients when I used to do Ocartz, Kelly.

Brian NeSmith, Race Director with Race Time Sports, brought out a big official clock for the finish line to give our race legitimacy. Not that our race wasn’t already crazy legitimate with all the superheroes showing up. We could have filled a short bus with Wonder Women, including Aitza who was bedecked like the busty bringer of justice. There were capes aplenty, including Shadenator in a dashing green one. Mayan came as the Water Boy. (Interesting choice of superhero.) It was rumored Harry Potter would show, but an evil sorcerer cast a spell of wimpiness of a certain Virgin Holidays manager. And friends Ross and Amy Bitterling got the Creative Use of Toiletries award with their Roll Tide headgear.

And let’s not forget a special appearance by The Baconator (no relation to the sandwich), who saved the day with delicious greasiness.

The venue at Blanchard Park couldn’t have been better. The route consisted of running out 2.5 kilometers, turning around some balloons, and running back 2.5 kilometers. Darren wanted to hand out maps with just a straight line on it so racers wouldn’t get lost. “Go out to the end of the line, then come back.” The best part is that as runners started returning, the out-runners could high five them and take tons of pics of the passersby. Our sister-in-law Seliena took a ton of pics. Check them out.

The winner of our very competitive race was Kenyan Wilson Kipsang. Oh wait, that was the London Marathon. Our winner was 14 year old Jeremy Brinker at 22 minutes on the dot. (And by “on the dot” I mean at the eventual time that someone bothered to look at the clock.) The boy is a gazelle. Mayan made it in 34 minutes with the Baconator coming in at a winded 35 minutes. (How did that little booger beat him?) Aitza didn’t run because her toe looks like a creature out of a Cronenberg horror ever since she lost her toenail. Aitza’s brother Edwin and wife Gigi rolled Shade along the entire route. When he got near the end, the whole family went out to meet him and ran in alongside him to much cheering. Photo finish.

Brendan Boyle supplied 5 gift-certificate prizes from Coliseum of Comics for our winners (fastest man and woman, and under 13 boy and girl) and for grand finale ender, our sister-in-law Mari. Brendan was also the premier banana supplier. If you need bananas for your next party, he’s the man to call.

I think we can officially label this stride as super. Lots of great people showed up and showed immense support for Shade and our family. We raised a good chunk of money to help with future therapies, doctors visits, gas and tolls for those bloody trips (we’re racking up over a thousand just in tolls), and other expenses. Thanks to all of you that attended, and to those that couldn’t but showed your support in other ways, whether by donating money, time, supplies or just love and support.

By the way, we’ve decided to make this an annual event. At least we have a bit more time to plan this time.

Tried to make me go to rehab

We’re making a few changes in Shade’s rehab. The schedule was a bit overwhelming with school, so we are cutting his therapy down to only Tuesdays for PT and OT. His speech therapy has really become memory practice, and he’s getting plenty of that learning about conquistadors and algebraic equations at school. Once Shade gets nerve graft surgery in his face, we’ll look into speech therapy again. In place of his lost therapies, we will be hitting the YMCA gym more often. He’s pumping iron now (machine weights, not free weights), and I think he enjoys it more. It makes him feel like a teen working on his body, not a tot being forced by a stern matron to do stretches and exercises. The YMCA doesn’t make a person feel like an invalid either. (Although after doing their cardio-fitness workouts, I often do feel like one.) Shade will also restart hippotherapy. (Which, by the way, couldn’t be possible if the conquistadors hadn’t brought over the first horses to Florida in the 1500s. Thanks, Ponce de Leon.)

Camping season is starting up soon, and the boys are excited. I was hoping Shade would be walking by now so he could have a bit more freedom at the camps but we’ll make do. I’d like to get a 4-wheel drive wheelchair for him to crush through the brush, but I don’t think they make all-terrain handicap assistance vehicles. By the way, our Indian Guides tribe is named for the Calusa tribe, who just happened to be the demise of Ponce de Leon. Thankfully, they didn’t kill all the horses.

Keep in mind that Shade’s Super Stride 5K Fun Run is this Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 a.m. at Blanchard Park. Park at the YMCA in Blanchard Park. By the way, the first 100 people to show up will get T-shirts with Shade’s Super Stride logo. We’ll also have water bottles with the logo on it and other goodies and giveaways. Thanks to all who are helping out and donating to our cause. Don’t forget to wear your cape! There will be a special appearance by the most delicious super hero of all, The Baconator!


Shade’s school progress

A couple weeks into Shade’s eighth grade classes and he seems to be adapting well. Many of his teachers have mentioned his added participation. His history teacher, Mr. Aldrich, says Shade is very involved in class, raising his hand to answer questions posed to the class and answering correctly. He’s taking initiative, which is fantastic. We are seeing a bit of this at home. Sometimes, without prompting, he asks us if he can work on his homework. Unfortunately he has a 15 to 20 minute window of concentration before he gets  frustrated and shuts down. He’ll switch from completely engaged to distracted and confused. Then he starts snapping about unrelated little distractions, like background noise or not having a sharpened pencil. On his history homework this evening, we got through one question and were just starting a second when he began griping and went upstairs in a huff (with me tagging along directly behind so he didn’t misstep and fall downstairs). Thus, his homework is always in the process of being finished. It’s an extremely tedious process to study for anything. That’s when Aitza takes over. She grabs Professor Cheetah the cat and somehow will retell the Spanish colonization of Florida in the 1500s through a feline’s perspective. She’s a much better teacher than I am, and she has the patience of the Dalai Lama. My patience level is closer to Daffy Duck.

At the YMCA, Shade is kicking it up a notch. Ashley and Lindsey, his trainers, have started him on the FitLinxx machines so he can work his muscles and keep track of his progress. I foresee a big jump in his strength as he’ll be focusing on his upper and lower body on different days and upping his weights regularly. Stepping up to an adult-level workout should boost his morale. Next step: Getting his pecs so big he can make them dance.

Keep in mind, Shade’s Super Stride 5K Fun Run is in two Saturdays (Sept. 15). I’ll be practicing for the 5K this weekend by running in the Dirty Foot Adventure Run, one of those muddy, painful obstacle courses made for people with no sense. If I survive, I’ll see you all at the 5K. If I don’t survive, I’ll have Aitza push my coffin down the course. I’ll make sure Aitza dresses my corpse in a unitard and cape so I stick with the Super Hero theme.

School again and Shade’s Super Stride new location

Last night, Shade and Mayan both had pre-school jitters. Aitza had to hang out in their bedroom for ages until they went to sleep. Mayan’s worries are based on no real problem. He couldn’t even put his finger on it. He ended up blaming it on the eventual  FCAT writing test that he would have to take later in the year. Go to bed, Mayan! Shade, on the other hand, was fretting about being accepted and whether he would have any friends. But this morning when Aitza took him, he was getting high fives from a bunch of students so I think he simmered down a bit. I’ll simmer down when I find out he’s actually doing okay. Last year was a gimme for his classes, but this year I think he’s going to have a bit more pressure to perform. The good thing is his memory has improved over summer. But it’s not up to 8th grade level yet. That may take a while.

When I picked up Shade at 2:10 p.m. to take him to therapy, he was worn out. He still gets very fatigued from long thinking sessions. (Must be a family trait. My brain sparks and whizzes when Aitza asks me more than two questions in a row.) He’s taking science, history, art, two math courses and a student assist class in which one of his peers helps him study. Unfortunately the chorus class had to go. It was seventh period and he would have missed it because of therapy.

Aitza took Shade to community choir as a Plan B, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to work either. They meet from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Mondays. He’d be shredded if he stuck to that schedule after a whole day at school and therapy. Plus, they were learning Handel’s Messiah, not a beginner’s choral piece.

New news on Shade’s Super Stride 5K. It’s moving location. It’s still September 15 at 7 a.m. but it is now going to be at Blanchard Park off Dean Rd. between Colonial and University. Matt Libby (who happens to be the husband of Shade’s OT, Kristen), Executive Director of the Blanchard Park YMCA, is helping us with all the necessities including insurance and permitting so it’s a lot easier. The original location in Gotha became a bit of a nightmare, especially after we ran into the bureaucrat from Hades. Blanchard, though a bit farther, is much easier.

We actually had a few people who stepped up to help us including Brian Nesmith, event coordinator for Race Time sports who gave us a lot of great advice. Thanks for the help, Brian.



School and Stride

School approaches. Next week, Shade will start another challenging year of juggling his studies, therapy, doctor visits, and more. He seems cool with it. I’m starting to stress though. Summer has been a nice respite.

This year, Shade is going to be in class for nearly the full time. It will be interesting to see if he can outlast the fatigue. Last year, he only did 4 classes in school. Guitar is out unfortunately. Shade doesn’t have the finger coordination still. In its place, he plans to take choir. So my plans to live vicariously through him switch slightly from lead guitarist of top-selling rock band to lead singer of top-selling rock band. Not a bad shift. At least he didn’t switch to flute. (No offense, Jethro Tull.) He’ll also be taking art, for which he has some passion and experience. (Thanks again, Julie!) I’d place him in the Salvador Dali camp. The boy is definitely surreal.

This week we started planning for Shade’s Super Stride 5k Fundraiser on September 15. We’ll be walking, running or zipping through the bustling metropolis of Gotha. Click here for the Facebook invite, or you can just look on the Events Page right here on Shade’s Progress. We’ve got the map of the route on the page. Invite everyone you know.

We’re looking for a few volunteers who have bad knees and don’t want to do the 5K but could help us with parking and to be makeshift crossing guards at the 5 road-crossing points. Send me an email if you can help.

Shade’s Super Stride is a themed stride, so wear your favorite superhero (or villain) outfit. Capes, tights and colored underwear worn on the outside of clothing are all welcome. For those of you that are not extroverts, you can come as yourself because you’re super. At least your mom thinks so.

Also, when you come, bring your smart phones and take pics along the way. We’ll have a site to which you can upload them all. I want to get 1000 pics of the event.

We’ve put out a suggested $20 donation at the request of participants that need to see a number, but if you can’t afford that, it’s okay. Give what you can. And don’t let us limit you if you are itching to share your lottery winnings either. Proceeds will go to Shade’s therapy, tutoring, bills, and other expenses. We’ll keep you updated on the plans for the 5K as the time draws near.

One year

Happy anniversary to us. Shade has made it through a full year since the nuclear bomb went off in his brain stem.

I would wax poetic on the emotional journey we’ve been on, or the growth we’ve seen, but that seems too corny. (Plus, I hate seeing growths. They’re disgusting.)  Suffice it to say, I’m glad my family is safe and close. And I’m glad we have close friends. And I’m glad that throughout this traumatic affair, Shade has managed to remain a happy kid. What more could we want?

I think the best way to express that happiness is with food and beverages. So we’re throwing a survival party today. All are welcome, so consider this an invitation. I tried to get as many emails on an Evite as I could but I always miss someone. Call me for directions if you need them.

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