Concord resident Chase Thomas, a 19-year-old who has Noonan Syndrome, faces multiple challenges every day – poor eyesight, low muscle tone and cognitive delays.
But the rising senior at Jay M. Robinson High School doesn’t focus on her limitations. Instead, she inspires others to rise above theirs.
On Aug. 11, Chase was leading her friends, family, football players and coaches in the cheer, “One, two, three, Dream,” on the football field, after the scrimmage between Concord and Rocky River High Schools. She was surprised by her Dream on 3 sendoff, whisking her away in a limousine to go home and pack for her 6 a.m. flight to Seattle the next day.
Dream on 3, the Harrisburg nonprofit founded by Brandon and Elizabeth Lindsey, provides sports dream experiences for chronically ill children. That organization was sending Thomas on her dream sports experience, to meet J.R. Sweezy of the Seattle Seahawks.
Her father, Tim Thomas, is the varsity defensive back coach at Concord High School and supporting the team runs in the family. Her brother Jacob Thomas, 23, coaches on the junior varsity team that Chase works hard to motivate.
“For the past couple of years Chase has been the JV motivator,” Tim Thomas said. “She gives a speech before every JV ball game to inspire the players.”
Chase picked Sweezy as her favorite player because he played at Mooresville during his high school years, before playing at N.C. State. She says she can identify with the his struggle to change from a defensive lineman to an offensive lineman after he was drafted by the Seahawks in 2012.
After her cheer, Dean Volk, with trip sponsor Volk Physical Therapy, presented Chase with a Seattle Seahawks jersey, complete with her name and the number 12 – for the 12th man that Seattle celebrates. Brandon Lindsey presented her with Seattle Seahawks football cards printed with a picture of her running with a helmet and the number 12. Lindsey then asked her to sign a card for him.
Sweezy’s dad, Brian Sweezy, and sister, Madison Sweezy, greeted Chase and gave her a gift bag that included one of J.R. Sweezy’s T-shirts, emblazoned with his motto “It ain’t eezy bein’ Sweezy.”
She hugged all her friends and football players before climbing into the limousine and waving back to the crowd.
Chase said she loved her first plane ride, which led to attending a Mariners baseball game that Wednesday. Hisashi Iwakuma threw a no hitter, only the fifth in Mariners history, in the 3-0 win over Baltimore. It was the first professional baseball game for Chase.
Later she attended a closed Seahawks practice, met J.R. Sweezy and enjoyed lunch with him and his wife, Gissell Sweezy. She also met some of the other players. Tim said lunch with the Sweezys was the highlight of the trip.
“He is the tough, nasty kind of player you want on the field, but he was a gentle giant with Chase. He was so gentle, so compassionate as he spoke with her,” Tim said.
During her stay, Chase saw the Space Needle and a few other famous landmarks. She also was allowed on the Seahawks sidelines before their game with the Denver Broncos. She watched from a suite as the Seahawks lost 22-20.
Chase’s mom, Sandy Thomas, said, “Chase has always had a big heart for others.”
Sandy said when Chase found out she had been picked for the Dream on 3 experience, she wanted to know if there wasn’t someone more deserving or somebody else that needed to have it.
Once they convinced her the experience was for her, Chase embraced the idea.
“She sure had a blast, she is just overwhelmed and made a bunch of great friends,” said Sandy. “Halfway through the trip she started telling Brandon how she could help him and ways we could raise funds to help other children.”
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dream on 3 is the Harrisburg nonprofit that makes sports dream experiences come true for children with chronic illnesses, developmental disabilities or life-altering conditions. For more information on the organization go to: http://dreamon3.org or visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/DreamOn3.DO3/timeline