Cowboy gives up hat

Every once in awhile, a story comes along that touches the heart. In this world filled with violence, drugs and negative news stories, a heartwarming piece of information can make us all stop for a moment and remember how it should be. Or...

Every once in awhile, a story comes along that touches the heart. In this world filled with violence, drugs and negative news stories, a heartwarming piece of information can make us all stop for a moment and remember how it should be. Or maybe how it could be, if everyone would take a few minutes out of a day or a week to do a caring gesture. Randall Helbert, driver of the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film transporter, took time out a few weeks ago at Sears Point Raceway to make a little boy's life a whole lot more special. Helbert, also known as "Cowboy" and "Lil Pup" (his CB handle), is a familiar sight in the NASCAR Winston Cup garage. He is always adorned with his black cowboy hat and large belt buckle, much like that of his favorite "cowboy actor", Sam Elliott. For 11 years now, the 43-year-old Helbert has hauled Morgan-McClure's race cars from one side of the country to the other. He has almost seen it all. Last year at the Sears Point event, Helbert, along with a few other Kodak crew members, met a little boy in a wheel chair outside of the team's transporter. The eight-year-old boy, Peter-John, touched the heart of Helbert. He is legally blind, deaf, and has Cerebral Palsy. The boy kidded with Helbert about his cowboy hat. He tried to swap his racing ball cap with Helbert's trademark hat. No deal was made. Peter-John, a Sacramento, Calif., native, visited the track again this year through a program called "Wheels to Wheels", sponsored by Sears Point Raceway. The program allows persons confined to wheelchairs to get up close and personal with the stars of NASCAR. While walking through the garage area, Helbert recognized the boy. He stopped and talked to him. He felt the same special connection with him as he had the year before. Once the race was over and all of the crew members were making mad dashes out of the track, Helbert noticed the boy still in the garage area. He went over to Peter-John and handed him the cowboy hat that had been perched atop his head. Other transporter drivers and the boy's mother witnessed in amazement. Somehow, they all knew that Helbert had given a piece of himself to the boy. "It's just something I felt compelled to do. I knew I couldn't leave that race track without giving the little fellow my cowboy hat," the Abingdon, Va., resident said. " I can always buy another hat. I don't think the happiness he felt can be bought. "I have a little girl, Randi. She's the sunshine of my life. I'm thankful she's healthy. I think we take things like that for granted sometimes. "Peter-John is a neat kid. He wants to tackle the world in a wheelchair. There's lots of spunk in him. I didn't do it for recognition. It's just something I had to do. I'm happy a simple gesture made someone so happy. Sometimes that's all it takes." Peter-John's mother wrote a letter to the team. The letter read:

"My son is nine-years-old.He is deaf and legally blind, as well as having other disabilities and health issues. It's hard to find "boy" things for him to do. About two years ago we started going to the races. This has been a fabulous activity for Peter-John. The drivers take time to show him the cars and how things work up close (he can see objects that are real close to him). They take time to insure he knows what is going on around him. Last year, we attended our first Winston Cup event at Sears Point. We met Randall Helbert and some of the Kodak crew. Randall spent time with Peter-John and there was a special connection between them. He wanted to trade hats with him, but they never did. This year, during our return trip, Randall recognized Peter-John and talked to him. As a mother, it is very touching to see a person kneel beside the wheelchair and talk to a deaf child. It is special to watch the communication. Our special thank-you goes to Randall and the entire Kodak team for making Peter-John's memories at the race track very special. We would especially like to thank Randall for his gift. To my surprise and that of the other transporter drivers standing around, Randall gave Peter-John a most cherished gift, his cowboy hat. He gave a part of himself to my son. Thank you cannot fully express what that meant to me and my son, but it is all we can say. Morgan-McClure should be proud to have such a special person working for them. It is crew members like that whole team which makes NASCAR the popular family sport it has grown into.They take time to care. Because of them, my son has some special "boyhood" memories that he'll always cherish."

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Series NASCAR Cup