What started as a request to go to a race and meet Jeff Gordon turned into a three-day whirlwind of racing-related events at the Bank of America 500 and a bedroom makeover for 15-year-old MacKenzie Jamison of Cornelius.
MacKenzie is a patient at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord with epilepsy, autism, anxiety and depression.
Jeff Gordon had always been MacKenzie’s favorite driver, so meeting with him was all she wanted. She and her mom, Heather Jones, had no idea what would be in store for them.
Dream On 3, the Harrisburg-based nonprofit that makes sports-themed dreams come true for chronically ill children, tries to make each experience unique for each child.
Founder Brandon Lindsey, inspired by the television show “Extreme Makeover,” decided that in addition to meeting Gordon and going to the race, MacKenzie would also get a redecorated bedroom with a Jeff Gordon theme.
He and his wife, co-founder Elizabeth Lindsey, enlisted the help of the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, the NASCAR racing community, Charlotte Motor Speedway and others to make this an experience to remember.
On Oct. 9, MacKenzie and Jones were taken by limousine to spend the night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord so that the team could work on MacKenzie’s room.
Brandon Lindsey started assembling furniture that night, working into the early hours of Friday morning. Using a front end that was painted to look like Gordon’s car for the base of her new bed, the team also hung an autographed car hood on the wall above her desk.
A life-size photo of Gordon on the wall added to the posters and other car No. 24 memorabilia that decorated the room. As the team put the finishing touches on her room, MacKenzie was taken by limousine for a private meeting with Gordon before having lunch at the Speedway Club.
Jones, a Tony Stewart fan, said that on the way to meet Gordon, she told MacKenzie that she was considering changing drivers because of what Gordon was doing for them, but MacKenzie said, “You can’t change drivers Mama. He’s my driver.”
Speaking about the meeting with Gordon, Jones said, “It was amazing, he was so casual and nonchalant. He sat and talked with her while she showed him some pictures and videos she made. He autographed a lot of stuff for her.”
Returning home Friday afternoon, MacKenzie didn’t know about the change to her bedroom. She was stunned when she saw it and turned and ran back out of the room to hug the Lindseys before bringing her mother in for a closer look.
“I love my new room,” MacKenzie said as she sprawled out on the bed, checking a picture of Gordon and herself on his Facebook page. She exclaimed, “It has 3,556 likes so far.”
On Saturday, after waking up in her new bed, MacKenzie told her mother, “Mama, that was the best sleep I ever had.”
The experience continued with a surprise send-off at the Huntersville Showmars restaurant by approximately 40 friends, church members and staff from the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital as a limousine whisked her away to the track.
Provided with pit passes, Mackenzie and her mom sat in on the driver’s meeting before the race, where Gordon stopped to talk with her. During the driver’s introductions MacKenzie was allowed to wait at the steps and high-five each driver before the race.
MacKenzie’s favorite photo from the event was when she got a high-five from Gordon after he was introduced. MacKenzie turned to her mother and said, “He remembered me!”
Watching from the pit road suites provided an exciting view of a good race for her driver. MacKenzie told her mother, “I’ve been on cloud 24 for the past three days.” Gordon, No. 24, led for part of the race, then fell back in the pack, but then worked his way back up to a second-place finish, making it an even sweeter experience to remember.