But there was this kid I sort of crossed paths with during the early part of my writing career and, as luck would have it, we became sort of inseparable.
In fact, we were so close he asked me to be his “LLG” (Long Lost Grandpa) and I agreed, so I guess you can say that he “adopted” me.
I think of him often and the hurt of him leaving us at such a young age (he was nine years old when he went to a better, less painful place) will be with me forever. His name was Jordan Davila and he was suffering the ravages of childhood cancer.
He is even more in my thoughts every year about this time when the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and the New Haven Raccoon Club turn their efforts to using their firearms and bows and arrows to make money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Words fail me as I try to describe the honor I felt by being asked to be the Grandpa of this courageous young man. His positive outlook even though he was dealt a lousy hand in the game of life by that insidious disease called Childhood Cancer, and the courage he showed in facing the deadly monster, is something that I will never forget.
I know that many of you faithful readers are more than familiar with Jordan through articles I have penned for this column over the years, and I thank you for bearing with me once again. You see, I promised my “grandson” I would never forget him — EVER — and I haven’t, even though 18 years have passed since his untimely death at the tender age of nine.
Danny Thomas the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital once said, “No Child should die in the dawn of life,” and my fellow sportsmen at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and New Haven Raccoon Club believe that with all their hearts.
I had my first run-in with Jordan when he was about four and half years old. He had a special place to which he would retreat to wait for the sickness from his treatments to pass until he felt better. It was a little pop-up tent that he had in his backyard and it offered him a haven where he would pass away the “bad times” in his treatment.
But then some uncaring individual did the unthinkable and robbed Jordan of his safe haven by stealing his tent one night under cover of darkness. An article on this dark deed appeared in the Meriden Record-Journal one morning and Edna suggested that we give Jordan a tent we carried in my truck.
A phone call to his mom, Paula, and then a quick trip to their home and the presentation of the tent, and I figured that would be that. But it was not to be. I was overwhelmed by the sight of such a sweet child being saddled with such a horrendous disease, that I could not help myself. He expressed a love for fishing, so I promised him that when he went into remission for the cancer, I would take him fishing.
It was also about the same time that my favorite radio station, Country 92.5 FM, started doing something called a “Radiothon” for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from the former Meriden Square. I happened to be tuned in while they were holding the event and stopped by the Square to see what it was all about, mainly because of Jordan. Before you knew it, I was so impressed I became heavily involved in the fundraising with an organization that I belonged to at the time called United Bowhunters of Connecticut (UBC).
The following year I was at The Square answering phones for Country 92.5 when someone told me that there was someone on the phone that wanted to talk to me. You could have knocked me over with a feather when a tiny voice on the other end said, “Hey Mike, it’s me Jordan! I’m in remission now and don’t need any more treatments, so I can go fishing. Are you going to still take me?”
You just know that I had to say yes. I had a hard time containing my joy at the idea of taking this sweet young kid fishing now that he was in remission from the terrible cancer that had wracked his frail body. It was then that I really got to know Jordan Davila, the kid with the heart of a lion, and it was an association I will never forget.
I should mention that Edna and I were invited down to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. with a couple of the disc jockeys from Country 92.5 FM. At that time sportsmen, both bowhunters and firearms shooters, were raising quite a bit of money and they wanted us to tell other radio personalities from around the U.S. how we did it. It was an unforgettable experience, to say the least, but it was the trip to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that is emblazoned in my mind forever.
All I could think of was Jordan when I saw the spirit demonstrated by these children infected with one of the most horrible disease a child can get. But it was the hospital staff that really got to me. Their compassion for these kids was so evident, it made me wonder how they could even do what they were doing. Even though their hearts were breaking as they helped the children try and live as normal life as possible, they always were cheerful in front of their charges.
However, more than once, when they were out of sight of the kids, the tears would flow in both the males and females. It was as touching a human scene as I have ever personally witnessed.
The trip to Memphis put a whole new spin on the relationship that Jordan and I had. The bond of grandson and grandpa became closer than ever. I never knew that a child could have so much love in one little body and share it with everyone he ran into in the short time he was on this earth.
He had the knack of charming everyone he ran into — outdoorsmen and women, construction workers, radio personalities (especially the gang at Country 92.5), truck drivers, even rock star Ted Nugent.
He was invited as a special guest to fish the trout pond at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and that Davila charm came shinning through like the brightest star in the heavens above.
One of his favorite times was when we would go for a ride in my pickup truck. I rigged a seat to get him safely high enough so he could look out at the world as we traveled backroads to favorite fishing spots.
I had a mobile phone in my truck and he was forever calling his Mom, Paula Charlton, and grandmother Mert Neligon to tell them how much he loved them. Sometimes it makes you wonder why such a super child like Jordan Davila is snatched from the loving arms of those who love him, while evildoers who should not even be on this earth continue to live and perpetrate unthinkable deeds.
While in remission, Jordan had to go to New Haven to keep an eye on the cancer he carried. Each time the nurse would come out with a smile on her face and they would all breath a sigh of relief, until that one dreadful day the nurse was not smiling and asked to talk to Paula.
When his mom started to tell Jordan, he simply looked up at her and said, “The bug as come back, hasn’t it?”
The next thing he said was pure Jordan Davila courage. “Well, there goes my hair again.”
Even while the pain wracked his frail body, this child with the heart of a lion never whined or complained. His courage was unbelievable, as is the courage of so many children that suffer from catastrophic diseases.
During the last days of his life, Jordan got to meet one of his idols, rock star Ted Nugent, and then Governor John Rowland at a bill signing in Hartford for Hunters For The Hungry.
I carried him into the Capitol because of the pain he was suffering, yet he never complained. When I carried him back to his grandmother’s car, I will never forget his nuzzling my neck and asking me in an ever soft voice, “Why me, Mike?”
I had no answer and hoped he did not see the tears flowing down my cheeks.
Jordan Davila left his world of pain on September 27, 1995. I will keep my vow never to forget the kid with a heart of a lion that honored me by “adopting” me as his Long Lost Grandpa.
The name of our organization has now been changed to CT Shooting Sportsmen For St. Jude, encouraging more firearms owners to participate in the fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The objective is still the same: to help researchers find a cure for childhood diseases that take so many young lives.
Leading our attempts are the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and New Haven Raccoon Club. The sportsmen at these clubs go “All In” on these fundraising efforts and it is something to behold.
The first one will be The Meriden Rod & Gun Club St. Jude Day on the club grounds on Raven Road in South Meriden. The event will feature an open firing range for the public to use, a trap shoot and an archery range and trout fishing, if the ice is off the pond. There’s also a HUGE sportsmen’s raffle that will include a chance to win a fishing trip with world record striper holder, Greg Myerson. And yes, we are using legal firearms to raise money to save children’s lives, not take them.
There will be food available all day long with a huge buffet at the end of the day, as well as a super-sized sportsmen’s raffle that will knock your socks off. Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the gate.
Every single cent raised at this righteous event goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This all happens at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club, Ravens Road South Meriden next Saturday, March 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event takes place rain, snow or shine, because the weather does not deter childhood cancer and other catastrophic childhood diseases, and neither will it deter us in our attempts to eradicate these vile diseases.
I really hope to see you all there! See ya, and God Bless America, the kids at St. Jude’s and watch over our troops wherever they may be.