Out of the tragedy of losing a child, Gary Bennett and his wife Sharon have remained committed to finding a cure for and supporting those with Cystic Fibrosis, the disease that took his daughter’s life.
Autumn Bennett was the light of her parents’ lives. At the age of one, she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.
“She was given a life expectancy of 15 years,” said Bennett. “We were determined to make every year we had with her as great as possible. She loved God, dancing, Disney World, her family and Rusty Wallace. We find comfort in knowing that she breathes and dances with angels in Heaven.”
After receiving a hero nomination from Vera Smith regarding Bennett and his work with CFF, Darrell Waltrip Automotive reached out to him about honoring him as a Hometown Hero. He was quick though to deflect the attention.
“I am no hero. Jake Bachman is a true hero, along with all the other youngsters dealing with this awful disease every day of their lives,” said Bennett. “My wife and I were blessed to be around some of these children and their families in the hospital, but we also got to see the pain and anguish that went along with it as well as endure it ourselves. We decided if we could do anything, however small, to help eradicate this disease we would try to do it and that’s how our events originated.”
Jake Bachman was diagnosed with CF at birth and as a preteen began volunteering with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Colorado and North Carolina before moving to Murfreesboro, where he continues to fight for a cure for CF along with his wife Amy, leading speaking engagements and participating in and hosting fundraising events.
In honor of Bennett’s work to fight CF and commitment to finding a cure he is being honored as a Hometown Hero.
“I nominated Gary because I know he was a “hero” to his daughter Autumn and her friends,” said Smith. “During her countless hours that she spent at Vanderbilt Hospital, he was known to her as ‘Daddy’ of course, but to all her friends, he was the ‘Milkshake Man.’
“They all waited to see him arrive with the pails of ice cream to start his routine of nightly milkshake making. A tradition I believe he would continue today if HIPPA insurance laws would permit him to do so.”
“I have just never felt this was anything out of the ordinary, just the right thing to do, as I absolutely admire these children for what they endure without complaints,” said Bennett.
As a part of Bennett’s DWA Hometown Hero award, a $500 donation will be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of all of those like Autumn and Jake who have fought and continue to fight for a cure.
Both Bennett and Bachman work together on the Autumn and Friends Golf Tournament, the event Bennett started in memory of his daughter Autumn, scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Windtree Golf Course in Mt. Juliet. For more information or to register visit autumnandfriends.net.
“We look at our event as a celebration of the lives of the children that have gone on to be with the Lord, and hope to be a beacon of light for the children dealing with Cystic Fibrosis on a daily basis and moving toward a cure for this horrible disease. As always we are working to make CF stand for ‘Cure Found.’”
Darrell Waltrip Automotive’s Hometown Heroes is a monthly event honoring everyday heroes in the Middle Tennessee area. For more information visit darrellwaltrip.com/hero.