Gene Mueller's Higher Life: Monster Jam & Children's Hospital
MILWAUKEE – It started with a question--what's this Monster Jam stuff all about?
It ends with an answer that has a little to do with dirt and danger, exhaust and excitement but a lot to say about some of the drivers, what they do for the towns they visit...as they live “The Higher Life.”
You see the ads.
You hear the roar.
Some of you even go to the shows.
The Monster Jam circuit came to Milwaukee earlier this month and it led me to wonder--what is this? Is it a sport? Is it just folks driving around in the mud in oversized pickup trucks? Does someone win at the end of the night?
A simple blog asking these very innocent questions brought a tempting invite from the folks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center--they, in fact, wanted to plan my whole week from watching the dirt getting loaded in to an actual Monster Jam to attending one of the shows. Something else leapt off the page--a visit some of the drivers were making to Children's Hospital as part of the “Beads of Courage” campaign.
“’Beads of Courage’ is an amazing program,” says Leslie Scott who is a certified child life specialist at Children's. “The patients at the hospital are able to get a bead for if they have surgery, if they have an IV placed, if they have an IV removed, any lines or just any major event that happens here at the hospital – their clinic visits, their overnight stays. It’s a concrete way for kids to document their hospital journey.”
Kids like three year old Michael Wilcox of Oak Creek. He's had two heart surgeries and now is battling tonsillitis. He, his mom and his dad Michael were there, front and center, when a pair of Monster Jam drivers dropped by with beads, toy trucks and other Monster Jam swag.
“He hasn’t been eating or drinking,” says Michael Wilcox. “All week he saw the advertisement for Monster Truck. I figured that if he could see the trucks and stuff, that he would be able to eat, maybe just motivate him for something, just to keep his mind off what he’s going through, you know.”
“Monster Jam has actually partnered up with ‘Beads of Courage’,” says Scott, “And they are going around to all the hospitals that have ‘Beads of Courage’ programs. The kids are able to meet the drivers and actually string beads that are specifically for Monster Jam, so there’s like a monster-truck bead, one for really enjoying the noise, and I think there’s a like race-fan bead. It’s very cool.”
Driver Allison Patrick was just hours from her first ever turn behind the wheel at a Monster Jam show but found time to do beads and meet with the kids at Children's. “This is my first time to come to the hospital for ‘Beads of Courage’ and it’s really exciting,” says Patrick. “I know these kids have to go through a lot, and it’s nice for outsiders to come in here and give them stuff to help them out a little bit.”
Allison knows, because she has another life away from the Monster Jam circuit. “When I’m not here, I’m actually an ICU nurse, so it helps to come in here. I kind of know what they are going through, so it’s nice to understand both sides of it: to help them and to go help them with their treatment and what not, and then to come in here and give them these beads. It helps them out, too.”
So what is Monster Jam about? Sure, it's drivers and dirt, exhaust and excitement. What else does it involve? Drivers, taking time, visiting kids they may never see again, giving families encouragement and sick children inspiration as they battle some very grown up conditions...proof, indeed, that they're living “a higher life.”
This is the second year Monster Jam teamed up with the “Beads of Courage” program, visiting kids in nine states so far. Find out more at beadsofcourgage.org.