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Lane Ponder Gets His Wish From Dream Factory
By Willie Hiatt
Special to the Mount Vernon Signal
Lane Ponder was understandably overwhelmed by the crowds he saw in Las Vegas Last fall.
The 6-year-old from Scaffold Cane attended a Professional Bull Riders event in that neon oasis compliments of The Dream Factory of Lexington, which fulfills dreams of children with serious or chronic illness.
Lane said, “Mom, I think they should call it ‘Found Vegas’, because everybody found it,” said Lane’s mother, Jill Ponder, the Youth Service Center Coordinator for Rockcastle County High School.
Lane has undergone chemotherapy treatments for sacral teratoma, a germ-cell cancer discovered on his lower spinal column in April 1999 and which recurred in March 2000. The family learned his dream would be fulfilled by the Dream Factory during his last chemotherapy treatment at the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital in July.
Choosing a dream wasn’t as easy as it might seem for a boy nicknamed “Cowboy”. When asked what he wanted to do more than anything else, he answered “horse ridin,” which the family does nearly every day anyway, his mother said.
Lane’s favorite movie, 8 Seconds, which stars Luke Perry and chronicles the life of Lane Frost, a former bull-riding world champion, provided inspiration for Lane’s dream.
What he chose was the mother of all bull-riding competitions, the PBR Bud Light Cup World Championships at Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas on Oct. 26-29, an event televised live on the Nashville Network. Lane shared his excitement about the trip with nearly everyone he saw, including clerks at Wal-Mart in Berea.
Besides his mother, Lane was accompanied on the trip by his father, Steve; his 3-year-old brother, Cass; and his 9-year-old sister, Hannah. Others joining him were his grandparents, Jan and June Stevens, and cousins Shaunna Stevens, Katie Stevens and Mikey Todd.
The family stayed at palatial Caesar’s Palace, attended several sessions of the bull-riding event, was interviewed on TV and met a number of bull riders during an autograph session with PBR stars such as Ty Murray, Cody and J.W. Hart, Chris Shivers and Tuff Hedeman.
Lane, who lost his hair during chemo treatments, received lots of attention everywhere he went, his mother said. He and his brother dressed the part with boots, hats and vests. No matter what bull rider asked Lane to name his favorite rider, he always told them Lane Frost, the man in the movie he’d watched as many as 30 times.
Many people wrongly assumed Lane was named after the famous rider.
In Las Vegas, the family also met Terry Holland, a bull rider who designed a bucking bull simulator riders use to hone their skills. The Ponder boys found it hard to pass up the “Mighty Buck” exhibit in Caesar’s Palace.
The simulator, which is operated manually and is a far cry from the mechanical bull made famous in the movie Urban Cowboy, was such a hit with the boys that the family ordered one as a Christmas present. It was a fixture in the living room until being moved to the barn just a couple weeks ago. It isn’t just the presence of Mighty Bucky that indicates life in the Ponder home is different these days. They are in the second part of their lives, Jill said, the one that comes after diagnosis of cancer. She probably wouldn’t stand in the way even if Lane pursued a dangerous sport like bull riding.
“After the last two years, it doesn’t seem like a big thing,” Jill said. "He can do anything he wants to do. It's nt half as scary a thought as what we have been through."
Lane continues to get excellent meducal reports, Jill said. There is no sign of cancer. Doctors do not use the term remission for his type of cancer because it implies there is no cure, she said. What the family hopes is that it has been eradicated by chemotherapy. “He is healthy today,” Jill said. “That’s about all I can say, he’s healthy today, and we are having a big time.”
The family has taken to heart these words: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a present. Jill said she doesn’t fear for Lane’s safety when he drives his golf cart on their farm. She’s quick to interrupt house work to read him a book or take him to a basketball game. She can’t keep her hands off him and kisses him at night as he falls asleep.
“We are not sad,” she said “We don’t have any regrets. We live probably happier than most people I know, more joyful. You can really get bound up in worrying about what’s coming. It paralyzes you to live like that. You turn away from it and you just enjoy yourself.”
It is impossible to tell Lane’s story without explaining the role faith has played. His grandmother, June Stevens of Wildie, says it is “mysterious” how an extensive prayer network has adopted Lane and his fight against the “bad cells” in his body, which is how his mother explained trips to the hospital.
Prayers for Lane have been uttered all over Central Kentucky, as well as in Tennessee, Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, and Georgia. The International Christian Fellowship church in Honduras, where Todd and Lynelle Fields are missionaries for Global Outreach, have offered up prayers in Spanish. The family also received word that a Honduran orphanage was praying for Lane. “Isn’t that just incredible that an orphanage in a third world country is praying for him?” Jill said.
Spirituality comes naturally for Lane. His mother said she has seen him leave the church nursery to request special prayer on his own.
The family expresses gratitude for the prayers, gifts, money and donated sick days that have allowed Jill to spend more time with Lane. As an example of the community’s support, the staff at Mt. Vernon Elementary School last year sent an Easter basket with cards, notes and plastic eggs containing a total of more than $200.
“It has taken the support of all of us to get through it,” his grandmother said. “It makes you realize you can, if you have to, go through the maximum.” Jill said she will feel like she has “gotten over some big mountain” when March and April come and go, the anniversaries of the discovery and recurrence of Lane’s cancer.
In the meantime, the family lives in the precious present, and counts its blessings for lessons learned. “In some ways it’s like being let in on a secret,” she said. “Our lives are better because it’s like knowing something you didn’t know before.”
You know what it is like to suffer and you know that you are strong enough to do it and you know the Lord is indeed everything you have been told he was. And you have what it takes even though it’s ripping your heart out. Ultimately, you know it’s going to be all right.”
The Dream Factory of Lexington can be reached at P.O. Box 707, Lexington, KY, 40586 or by phone at (859) 254-9474.
Willie Hiatt, the son of Barbara and Billy Hiatt of Mt. Vernon, is special sections coordinator for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Reprinted from The Mount Vernon Signal
Dream Factory2001 - We have Chosen the Dream Factory as this year's project to raise money. We, the Cruisin Buddies, understand the miracle of helping others. There is not a more special group than our children. This year, let's work really hard to help a child with a grave illness have a dream. Wait, would you help us to make this possible for many dreams? You can build this dream by purchasing the Cruisin Buddy Shirt. One hundred percent of all the profit will go to the DREAM FACTORY. This year's shirt will have a 1930 model A. We know that many of you will help. You could place an order by calling Charlie or Kathy Cheatum. We hope that Lisa Atkinson will have shirts available too. On behalf of all you Cruisin Buddies, we thank you for making Kentucky Car Shows so special. To make a donation to this year's cause, Contact Lisa Atkinson listed below and tell her you're a Cruisin Buddy and want to make a dream come true for a child.
Local Contact for the Dream Factory
P.O. Box 707
Lexington, KY 40588
E-Mail: Lisa Atkinson
Toyota South is featuring Dream Factory on
August 13, 2001 edition of People Magazine.
The ad will include photos and the dream of Lane Ponder.
Contact for the Dream Factory
P.O. Box 707
Lexington, KY 40588
E-Mail: Lisa Atkinson