The newest article is up on the Frazee Forum...
I will post the cover and back photos of their print edition in a few...Fiero fanatics make a dream come true for teen battling cancer
• by Barbie Porter
As the fog lifted Sunday morning in Frazee, there was a reason to miss church. It had nothing to do with the Vikings, but rather a devoted fan of the Green Bay Packers whose dream was about to come true.
After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in early October, an 18-year-old Frazee boy, Tyler Shipman, posted a wish on an Internet chat forum geared to Fiero fanatics.
He told them he'd been slowly rebuilding a 1986 Pontiac Fiero, the second he'd owned.
"I sit at the hospital with cancer and they can't treat it," Tyler wrote. "(They don't know) how long I'll be here; they say could be till spring or longer, or shorter ... I'm just trying to find some way to get it restored before I pass."
At 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 his wish came true. After traveling to Frazee and working through the night at Frazee Auto Body, which donated the shop and tools, 20-plus members from Pennock's Fiero Forum (www.fiero.nl/cgi- bin/main.cgi) unveiled the masterpiece to the crowd gathered in the high school parking lot.
As the hearty rev of an engine rolled, a garage door opened and a fog machine puffed out a heavy cloud. A canary yellow Fiero, rebuilt from tip to tail, emerged from the haze; it's speakers rocking out one of Tyler's favorite songs.
His smile was as bright as his car. At first Tyler admired it from afar, allowing the 100-plus people who came to witness the unveiling to have the first up-close glance.
His parents, teachers and friends will tell you that's just part of his character, to put himself second.
Kenny Holgate, Frazee, is a longtime family friend.
"Since he was a kid he would come around with his grandpa, just to make sure grandpa's stories didn't stretch to far from the truth," Kenny joked.
Pam, Kenny's wife, reiterated the sentiment, "Tyler is the kind of kid that any parent would be proud of. He's giving, always respectful, kind; just an all-around-good kid."
After the crowd parted, someone asked Tyler if he was going to take it for a spin.
Without hesitation, Tyler said yes. His family helped him into the driver seat. His father, Jay, was the first to go for a ride. Tyler shifted into drive and slowly inched forward through the parting crowd. Rolling into the street, Tyler hit the gas as his 10-year-old brother and two sisters, 8 and 21, cheered and his mother, Daneele, wiped tears from her eyes.
"This is the only car that has ever made me cry," she joked. "Well, if you don't count the ones that have broke down on me."
Lately, those lighthearted moments have come easier for the family. Tyler's mother attributes it to the selfless people who donated to the rebuild.
"For the past few weeks the car is all Tyler has talked about," she said. "I am so thankful, it leaves me speechless."
Soldier sparks Tyler's
The makings of a dream began across the globe when Andrew Weigle, a U.S. Sgt. with E Company's 1-150th Assault Helicopter Battalion read Tyler's post.
Even though Andrew, a resident of East Berlin, Penn., was serving in the Iraqi War, he knew he had to do something.
Cancer had touched his family, so he knew the power of a smile during rough days. At first, the mission was to get Tyler a new bumper. But the generosity of Pennock's Fiero Forum members quickly expanded it into a full-blown rebuild weekend.
Chris Kliewer, Inver Grove Heights, organized the effort stateside, bringing parts and people from across the country to Frazee.
"The people on the (Pennock's Fiero) Forum are always willing to help each other out," he said. "We heard about his situation; knew it was the right thing to do, so we did it. I wasn't surprised by the turnout (of volunteers), but I was impressed."
"I'm a grown man, but the overwhelming willingness of complete strangers and businesses to help where help was needed, it makes me tear up," he continued.
Chris was in good company, besides the volunteers and community members who stopped by to keep them fed and in good spirits, there was an online following of more than 40 people who watched the rebuild via webcast, many of whom stayed until the mission was complete.
Project touched by
a "higher power"
For the most part, the project went smoothly with few setbacks. Many credited the good fortune to a "higher power."
Even before the build began, members of Tyler's Dream Team reported coincidences that played a part in making the wish a reality.
John Panicci of Lake Worth, Fla., recalled his calling to the project came during a restless night in bed.
"I had this feeling down deep telling me to be part of this," he said. "Then things just started falling into place."
Unexpectedly, John received a bonus at work which covered his airfare to Minnesota. Then his work schedule was changed, giving him an extra day off during the weekend of the build.
"As if that were not enough, I was working on my Fiero and purchased some parts that I didn't need," he said. "That same day I looked on the Forum, and those very parts were needed for Tyler's car."
Chris Antuzzi of Colfax, Calif., found a mysterious plane ticket to Fargo in the mail.
"I was surprised and a little concerned actually, because it had all my private information, like my drivers license number on it," he said.
After a little investigating, he discovered the plane ticket was sent by "anonymous angels" from Pennock's Fiero Forum.
Stuart Lowery of Cleburne, Texas, was approached by Frazee native, Ashley (Estenson) Dahlman, while waiting to board a plane in Dallas.
"I had my laptop out and she noticed a picture of Tyler," he recalled. "I found out she grew up in Frazee. She gave me her number and said if we needed a place to sleep she's the revenue manager of the Embassy Suites in Minneapolis."
Stuart respectfully declined the offer, as he had already made accommodations elsewhere. However, he soon discovered there was an error in the reservation.
"It had us booked for the wrong night," he explained. "So we went to the Embassy and they put us up for the night."
The goodwill was also seen on the road as the volunteers driving Fieros headed to Frazee. The news of the event had spread and people were eager to greet them with a wave.
Not even car trouble could put a wrench in the mission.
Arron Hultquist of Centuria, Wisc., had car trouble in Anoka, but never considered not making the final stretch of the trip.
"I was going to find a way," he stated. "I love working on Fieros and I love the camaraderie. We're like a family, and when a member of our family needs help, you don't turn around."
Gestures and words like that are hard to grasp for Tyler's longtime friend, Brandan Gildersleeve, 17.
"Seeing people give back to my friend, who they don't really know, is overwhelming," he said. "It's nice to see things like this happen. It's amazing."
Alyssa Mayfield, Tyler's classmate agreed, "It's a lot to take in, to think what these people did... it's so cool how they all came together to make his dream come true."
Fierce and proud
Atop a rebuilt car, Cold Spring Granite, based near St. Cloud, donated a plaque with an engraved picture of Tyler kneeling next to his car. To the right of the picture is the Fiero emblem. At the bottom, inscribed into the bronze casting is the year the car was built, May 1986, next to it, the date of it's rebirth, Nov. 2009.
From Iraq, Andrew was able to watch the build and the unveiling via a webcast provided by KARE-11, a TV news station in the Twin Cities. Feature reporter Boyd Huppert contacted Andrew via e-mail after hearing about the chain reaction the soldier started.
The TV station attended the build and through the web-based communications tool, Skype, was able to give Andrew a front row seat for the big moment.
"I'm glad we were able to do that for him," Huppert said.
Through the Internet, Andrew thanked those involved with the project and encouraged Tyler to remain strong, and to enjoy his new car. Andrew, who plans to visit the Shipman family when he returns from the Middle East in January, also arranged for an honor flag, which was flown in an Iraqi combat mission on a Blackhawk helicopter, to be given to Tyler for his honorable battle with cancer.
In Italian, Fiero means very proud, in Spanish, it means fierce; both are perfect words to describe the historic effort that was a tribute to humanity and goodwill towards men.
"God bless them for what they've done," Daneele said. "They will never know how much it means to my family."
Donations, to cover medical costs, can be mailed to: Shipman Benefit, c/o Daneele or Jay Shipman, United Community Bank, P.O. Box 156, Frazee, MN 56544.
[This message has been edited by Synthesis (edited 11-25-2009).]