A Rowdy homecoming
Sometimes, kids struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve because they are too excited about the next morning and what awaits them.
It was 2 a.m. on Wednesday, far removed from the holidays, but 9-year-old Rowdy Ware was nevertheless lying awake.
"Mom, are you awake?" he asked Rachel Ware.
She was — and for similar reasons.
"Why are you awake?" she asked him in response.
"I can't sleep. I'm just staring out the window," Rowdy answered.
A few hours later, the family — which includes his dad, Steve; sisters Kacee, Alyson and Erin; and brother Steven Jr. — would finally hit the road and return home after a long past few months.
Rowdy was diagnosed with aplastic anemia this past October. The rare, life-threatening condition is total bone marrow failure when the body doesn't produce red/white/platelets cells. He received a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 4 at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, and after spending a few weeks in the hospital and moving into the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital for the duration of their stay, the family finally got to return home Wednesday.
"He is very, very excited to come home," Rachel said. "It has been a long time for him."
And in true Prineville fashion, the Wares will not go home without a little fanfare. You see, Kim Daniels, the executive director of Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, and Prineville Coffee Company owner Lisa Parker, have been scheming. When Daniels got word that the family was heading home, she got an idea.
"I thought, with all this community has done to support them, why not throw a parade when Rowdy comes home?" she recalls.
She reached out a few people, but mainly Parker, who had played a huge role in supporting the family with fundraisers and regular Facebook updates on Rowdy.
"Lisa then took the lead on gathering the business community to get things going for a true 'Welcome home' reception," Daniels said.
The Prineville community did not disappoint. As the Ware family departed for the final leg of their trip home — fittingly from Prineville Coffee Company — staff from nearby businesses stood outside their Third Street storefronts cheering as Rowdy passed.
Led by a Prineville Police Department patrol car, Rowdy stood in the front passenger seat of a black Jeep Rubicon, waving to the well-wishers.
The crowd of business people was just a warm-up. Once the caravan turned onto Knowledge Street, Rowdy was greeted by a massive crowd of students gathered along the sidewalk in front of Crook County Middle School. Just around the corner waited hundreds of Crooked River Elementary School kids, who cheered wildly and held up 'welcome home' signs as the 9-year-old cruised past his home school. Rowdy encountered a similar reception as he was escorted past Crook County High School.
The Wares are no longer strangers to the generosity of local residents. New to Crook County about a year ago, they were overwhelmed by the support of people they had never met. Perhaps the most noteworthy act of support came in late December when the Buckin' for Rowdy bull-riding event brought in more than $21,000.
Spearheaded by Patrick Drinkard, the funds raised during the event assisted the Ware family with medical and travel expenses and helped ease their financial burden so both parents could be readily available for Rowdy and their four other children.
Twenty bull riders came for the bull-riding event, which was held Saturday, Dec. 29 at the Crook County Fairgrounds indoor arena.
"We have just been overwhelmed by our community's support for our family," Rachel remarked, adding that staff from Doernbecher have been blown away by the help the community has provided. "I can't tell you how many nurses and doctors … said your town is just so special. They said it's a rarity today to see that kind of support for a little boy and his family."
Rachel went on stress that the support prevented a bad situation from becoming much worse. She explains that when you have a sick child, nothing else matters, and financial responsibilities back home tend to take a backseat. However, the bills still have to get paid, and during her time at the hospital, she met families on similar journeys who have lost their car or their home.
"People have been so amazing," Rachel said. "I just want them to know how thankful we are."
And now that Rowdy is home, what does he look forward to most?
"He really misses his dog," Rachel said, "and he just wants to be home with his friends."