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Ann Arbor, Mich. – Caden Bowles, an 11-year-old boy who loved cars, desperately needed a hero: a donor who could provide him with a second heart transplant he needed to survive.
Caden had received his first heart transplant as a baby at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. But that heart was no longer working well enough to keep him alive. Despite efforts to keep him healthy until a new heart became available, Caden died in fall 2013.
But this young man has not been forgotten. Today, his friends, family and caregivers celebrated his life with a special car show for all the kids and families enduring hospital stays like Caden did.
At Caden’s Car Show, more than 50 classic, fun and state-of-the-art cars gathered on a hospital parking deck and valet entrance area for an exclusive show for the patients at the hospital.
The show grew from an idea first suggested by one of Caden’s friends, automotive journalist Jean Jennings of JeanKnowsCars.com. Jean met Caden when he was about 8 years old and recovering from cancer that developed after his first heart transplant.
“Caden was a total car freak, a car guy, a car nut, whatever you want to call this passion that burns at a level few can match,” Jennings wrote in a column last fall. Jennings returned to see Caden as he waited for his second transplant, when he showed her his latest project, a newsletter called Full Throttle that he’d done in pencil on lined paper with drawings and his analysis of automobile makes and models.
At that point, Jennings and Caden’s family and caregivers were hoping and praying a heart would arrive. But Jennings proposed something else that she could do: establish a yearly car show for the kids at Mott.
“We wanted a parade of cars that would create a diversion for the kids and families. Old cars, exotic cars, the Wienermobile – anything that would make them smile and forget about being sick for a while,” Jennings says.
“It is so wonderful that we are able to do this today for these kids facing the challenges that most of us can’t imagine,” she continued. “It’s a great way to remember my fellow auto enthusiast and friend, Caden. But it could not have happened without the help of very generous sponsors and the commitment from the University of Michigan Health System leadership.”
The cars featured in the show ranged from a 1922 REO Fire Truck to a 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Other highlights were the “Mopar Muscle” Ram monster truck, Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, 1929 Ford hot rod,” Volkswagen “Herbie” Beetle, 2015 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, 1991 Ferrari Testarossa and a 2008 Lamborghini Reventón. The full roster of cars is listed below.
Caden had touched many people at the hospital, where staff had built strong relationships with him and his family through his first transplant, his fight against cancer and his wait for a second transplant.
“Caden was an extraordinary boy, so it’s fitting that Caden’s Car Show is an extraordinary event. This took months of planning and couldn’t be accomplished without the hard work of Jean Jennings and her team, our generous sponsors and our hospital staff,” says Edward Bove, M.D., chair of the U-M Department of Cardiac Surgery.
“We know our kids and families face many challenges, and this day of exciting cars and fun activities will put smiles on their faces and create some happy memories.”
Patients who are able could visit the cars outside. Others could see the cars from their room windows or other gathering spots. Kids who couldn’t leave their rooms will be able to watch a video feed from their beds.
Indoor activities also included a photo booth, a slot-car track, XBox games, a track for “valve-cover racers” and face painting on the 12th floor of the hospital.
Each child received a gift bag full of treats and toys including an Automoblox wood car, a metal Ford GT model diecast car, a copy of “The Little Red Racing Car” by Dwight Knowlton, a Hot Wheels metal lunchbox, Chevrolet trading cards, a Wienermobile whistle and more.
Sponsors for the event were: Nissan, Event Solutions International (ESI), Mercedes-Benz USA, Suburban Collection, Mini Cooper Group/BMW, General Motors, Edsel Ford II, Mazda, The Hagerty Group, Dwight Knowlton, Patrick Calello, Funrise, Kraft Foods, Edelbrock Family Foundation and Craig Luck.
Caden’s parents and family expressed gratitude for such a wonderful remembrance of their son. They have shared their story in hopes that it will spur people to consider becoming organ donors, bone marrow donors and giving blood.
Currently, 26 children are waiting for organ transplants at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Seven kids need a kidney. Seven kids need a liver and 12 kids, just like Caden, are waiting for hearts.
About 3,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ in Michigan today. Nationally, it’s about 114,000 … about the same number of people that fill Michigan Stadium on a football Saturday. People die waiting every single day.
“We had 11 years with Caden because a family chose to donate their child’s heart,” says Shannon Bowles, Caden’s mother.
“Caden understood the impact of organ donation: he would have wanted us to share his story to encourage others to make life-saving donations of organs, tissue, bone marrow and blood.”
Caden’s eyes were donated after his death, giving another person the gift of sight.
You can learn more about Caden’s story in this short video here.
Read Jean Jennings’ column here.
About congenital heart services at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital: The specialists at the Congenital Heart Center at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital are skilled at treating the full spectrum of congenital heart conditions. U.S. News and World Report ranked our program sixth in the country for cardiology and heart surgery. More information is available at www.mottchildren.org/congenital.
Full list of cars on display:
1922 REO Fire Truck
1925 Detroit Electric 95
1929 Ford hot rod
1930 Ford Model A
1953 MG TD
1953 Packard Caribbean
1953 Jaguar XK120 SE
1954 Chevrolet Corvette
1954 De Soto Firedome
1956 GMC 250 "Tow Mater"
1960 Cadillac Series 62
1963 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier
1964 Amphicar 770
1965 Shelby Cobra 427
1965 Volkswagen Beetle "Herbie"
1965 Dodge A100 "Scooby Doo"
1966 Ford Mustang
1967 Chevrolet Corvette
1969 De Tomaso Mangusta
1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
1970 Volkswagen Westfalia Campmobile
1972 Dodge Charger stock car
1972 Austin Mini
1975 Plymouth Fury police car
1976 AMC Pacer
1979 Triumph Dolomite Sprint
1981 De Lorean
1991 Ferrari Testarossa
1991 Porche 944
1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello
2000 Dodge Viper GTS ACR
2004 Dodge Ram SRT10
2005 Lotus Elise
2006 Maserati Gransport MC Victory Edition
2008 Lamborghini Reventón
2009 Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
2010 Chevy Camaro race car
2010 Chevy Camaro pace car
2011 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon pickup
2012 BMW M3
2014 Chevrolet Corvette
2014 Dodge Charger police car
2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler
2014 Ram 2500HD Monster Truck "Mopar Muscle"
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series
2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
2014 Nissan GT-R NISMO
2014 Jaguar F-type
2014 Audi R8 V10
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S
2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith
2014 Mini Cooper S
Tesla Model S
Ford ambulance -- UofM Survival Flight
Detroit Fire Department Clown Team 1958 Ford Fire Truck