Anticipation, nervousness, excitement…they were all over Hailey’s face on February 21st. We arrived at the a la Cart Pavilion in Tampa to attend the 8th annual WEDU Be More Awards which recognizes many of the unsung heroes in the local community including non-profits and other individuals who go above and beyond. Hailey was nominated and was a finalist for the Be More Inspiring: Rising Star Award because of all that she has done to help raise money for Livy’s therapies. It started back in November when we were told by Hailey’s principal who heard from her music teacher that he had heard from a friend about her nomination. To this day, we still do not know who nominated her but we are incredibly grateful. The guideline was that the nominees with the most on-line votes would be selected as finalists and then judges would decide the winner. This set off a flurry of voting from our family and friends. People could vote once per day. I was told that reminders were set and reoccurring appointments on calendars were created so as not to forget to vote each day. Thank you to all who voted!
After the voting was complete, we were ecstatic to learn that Hailey was a finalist! This meant we would be invited to the WEDU celebration where the winners would be named. None of us knew what to expect at this point so we got our tickets and prepared for the day. I had watched the video from the previous year’s award ceremony and I advised Hailey that she may want to write down a little something to say if she was lucky enough to win. She got right down to it and wrote a paragraph on note cards which she then rehearsed a handful of times. I am still amazed that at only 8 years old how comfortable and poised she is when she speaks in front of others. Credit that to her gifted program at school and to the times our family presents to her classmates or at disability conferences.
The morning came and it was much like any other day. Hailey and I had breakfast together, which we are fortunate to do every day during the week. Usually we review her spelling words for school but on this day, we practiced reading her note cards. I could tell what she was thinking at this point. She asked how many people were attending and what would happen if she was selected. Her nerves were getting a little shaky when I told her that there would be a few hundred people. Honestly, I don’t know if Hailey or I was more nervous.
We arrived at the a la Cart Pavilion at about 10:30. When we checked in, Hailey received her finalist ribbon along with her name tag. She was so proud. Many of the non-profits that were finalists had tables displays set up to describe what they do and to hand out information. I never knew there were so many wonderful organizations in our area supporting the local community. I felt very small to be in a room with people that work every day because they want to make a difference in the lives of others. They don’t do it for the money. They do it because the satisfaction of helping another human being is far more valuable and meaningful than the size of their paycheck.
Lunch started at noon and after a few speeches, they got right into handing out awards. As Hailey’s category got closer, she said she was feeling increasingly nervous. I think it was more excitement than nerves but neither deterred her from polishing off her dessert in record time. Kids will be kids.
One award down, five, eight…it was time for Hailey’s category. With acceptance speech in hand, she waited as patiently as she could while the nominees were announced. At this point, Allison and I were both on pins and needles. Then came the words we were hoping for, “and the award goes toâ€¦Hailey Scheinman!”
You know that feeling you get when revealing the winning numbers on a scratch card? Well this was a hundred times better. Allison went up with Hailey on stage and I stayed back to take video. As I wiped the tears of happiness from my eyes and attempted to get into a good position to capture the moment, I was relieved that I was not being recorded. I was an exuberant father reduced to a bumbling, uncoordinated amateur. I had to cut some of the video out because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in the pattern of the floor or the hair style of the women who I almost ran over.
As I watched Hailey on stage in complete awe, I was reminded of just how special she is and how mature she is for an 8 year old. She read flawlessly from her note cards while continuously glancing at the audience. She even cracked a joke to the amusement of the crowd. She was a real pro. Despite her seemingly high level of confidence, afterward she said, and I quote, “I was so nervous I thought I was going to faint!” Once again showing how real and genuine she is. Many of you know her from personal experience but others only know of her through what you have read or seen in videos. I can honestly say that what you see is what you get.
When the ceremony was wrapping up and the picture taking was finished, Hailey performed her double happy dance. She normally does a single happy dance but because it was such a good day, she was twice as happy. You will have to view the video to see what I am referring to. As I watched her through the camera, on the inside, I was dancing right along with her.