Follow a Dream
Published July 27, 2011
blindness , Blogroll , Flo
Tags: auto mechanic, being blind, blind mechanic, Cruisin' Photography, Follow A Dream, Illinois Tool Works, ITW, Jay Blake, NHRA, Route 66
There's the little mechanic.
My five-year-old great niece stayed with me overnight last week while Mike was away. She adjusted the Velcro on my boot cast, guided my finger to a strip for my blood glucose test, and retrieved my cane for me so many times that I told her she oughta be a nurse when she grows up. AnnMarie had other ideas. “I’m going to be a mannequin.”
This from a five-year-old ball of fire who never sits still and never quits talking. “Wouldn’t that be boring?” I asked. “All you’d do is stand around all day.”
I didn’t have to be able to see AnnMarie to know she had her hands on her hips now. “That’s what my dad does!” she said defiantly. “I’m going to be a mannequin when I grow up.”
AnnMarie’s father is a mechanic. And he’s a good one, too. AnnMarie has witnessed her dad come to her beloved great-grandmother’s aide many, many times back when Flo was still driving. Flo gave up her license on her 95th birthday, but AnnMarie still sees the profession as one where, just like nursing, you help people get where they need to go.
Which is all a long segue to a story my friend Gretchen Livingston told me about a guy named Jay Blake, the only totally blind crew chief in motor sports. From a blog called Cruisin’ Photography:
Overcoming the odds, triumph from tragedy and a million other clichés can be applied to Jay. He’s been blind since an industrial forklift tire blew up in his face in May 1997. The blast sent him 45 feet through the air and nearly killed him. He was airlifted from his work site in Cape Cod, MA, to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where it took surgeons over 10 hours to reconstruct his features. The accident caused Jay to lose his vision.
Jay went through rehab after getting released from the hospital, and while making his way around his house to become acclimated to his surroundings, he wandered into the garage and ran across his toolbox. He groped around, found a combination wrench, and realized that he still had the ability to identify tools just by his sense of touch.
Fourteen years later, in addition to leading the crew for his very own dragster, Jay tours the country to speak to groups about a foundation he started to “inspire people, especially those with disabilities, to shift into positive thinking and to follow and achieve their dreams through self-determination and teamwork.” That’s how Gretchen found out about Jay Blake — her husband works for Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (ITW), and Jay and his team made a visit there earlier this month to show off his car and talk about Follow A Dream. From there the team was off to Joliet for an All-star race & the Route 66 NHRA (National Hot Rod Association Nationals @ Route 66 Raceway).
And so, a blind man is a crew chief for a hot rod. And the hot rod competes in national competitions. Who am I to tell little AnnMarie she can’t Follow a Dream? That squirrely little redhead might make a terrific mannequinmechanic when she grows up…!