Do you hear what I hear?
Listen closely. It’s the spirit of giving as it floats from heart to heart during this Christmas season.
Every one of us, no matter our station in life, has the desire and ability to give. We give of our time and skills, or if we can, we give monetary donations to causes that touch our hearts. If you have a cause that’s worthy of your time and/or money this season, and you can only give there, then please give with a joyful heart, and just read this article for the inspiration that I hope it will provide. If you are looking for a cause to which you can give, I hope you’ll be inspired to help out a young man who has become special to two of our own here in the Falls City area. His story is incredible.
Brad Thomas, a young man from the Broken Bow area, met locals Sissy Georges and her mom, Angel Ralph, after Brad and Sissy were featured in separate segments of Lance’s Journal on KOLN/KGIN television in Lincoln. Lance, a native of Falls City, featured Sissy’s story in January of 2012, and Brad’s later that year.
Lance and I are personal friends, so through that connection, Sissy and Brad became friends. The two talked on the phone for nearly a year, and met for the first time in July of this year.
So let me tell you why this connection is so special.
As many of you know by now, Sissy Georges is a local woman who has overcome blindness to become a barrel-racing champion. She breaks and trains horses, and is a certified equine sports massage therapist. Although Sis has no sight in her right eye, and sees only bits and pieces with her left, she was raised as if she could see, so she does her chores, takes care of her horses, and rides them daily, to keep them fit and strong. Sissy’s horses are her wheels, her ticket to freedom, in her life. They’re as important to her as the air she breathes.
(I have been telling Sissy’s story for nearly four years, and am in the final stages of the fourth draft of a book about her life. We hope that this is the one.)
Brad’s story may be a bit less familiar to people in this area, except those who had the goof fortune of catching his segment on Lance’s Journal over a year ago. I’d like to tell it again here, just in case you missed it.
Brad is a real-life cowboy. He gets up seven days a week at his home in Sumner, NE, and drives 35 miles from his trailer to the Darr feedlot in Cozad, where he works as the head pen rider. There, he rides his horse for 14 hours a day. On the days when the weather is gorgeous, he takes off his cowboy hat and looks up toward the sun with gratitude. But he also rides in the wintry snow, bone-chilling cold, breath-taking wind, and scorching heat (he has every other weekend off).
He rides to check the 40,000 head of cattle at the feedlot. If one of the herd is sick, hurt, or in trouble, then he and his fellow pen-riders set to work. The cattle are Brad’s livelihood. But his horses are his life.
Obviously, then, horses were the connecting factor for Brad and Sissy. They found a common bond — someone who understands why horses are so important.
But Brad and Sissy share more than just a common interest in horses. They also understand that stares of little kids in the grocery store, the appreciation for those who treat them just like everyone else, the need for independence, and the sense of freedom that they get from being in the saddle.
They understand each other because both have disabilities. And both have overcome those disabilities with jaw-dropping determination, and “I can do it myself” attitudes. Sissy is legally blind, but still became a barrel-racing champion. She works with her horses every day. Brad lost both of his arms in a farm accident when he was five. He hoists his saddle onto his horse using his chest and a stub on his left shoulder. He cinches the saddle with his teeth, climbs up with incredible leg strength, and rides all day just like the other pen riders and cowboys do.
In addition, he cares for his mother, who has diabetes and has lost most of her own sight. (Another bond between Brad and Sissy.)
Thirty-five years ago, Brad was a “normal” kindergartner when he fell into a grain auger. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics gave him very little chance for survival. They lifted him onto a gurney, slid him in the back of the ambulance, and climbed in beside him. His mother jumped in, too. As the ambulance sped to the hospital, Brad slipped away.
Brad’s mom had been taking classes to be an EMT, so she shoved a paramedic out of the way, performed CPR on her own son, and brought him back to life. After he lost both arms, she vowed to raise him like a “normal” child.
Brad was about horses all of his life. He refused to feel sorry for himself, and refused to let others do for him what he could do on his own. He learned to open doors with his feet, open packages with his teeth, and drive with the stub of his arm.
He found a way to do everything that you and I can do, and even some things we can’t.
But because of all of the ripping and tearing and bending and twisting, his body is worn out. He’s caring for his mom now, too, and that adds additional stress. He’s only 38, but his teeth are worn down to stubs, his truck won’t start sometimes, and his back is giving out. Yet still, this man refuses to ask for help, and according to Angel and Sis, is usually the first in line to help others.
He doesn’t know it, but Sis and Angel have vowed to put him on the receiving end for the first time in his life. Well, not the first time. Last summer when they visited, they hauled several round bales of hay along. The hay bales were donated by local farmers Jerry Howard, Jim Schawang, Thomas Georges, and Boone Scholl. Russell Heineman provided the trailer to haul it, and Matt Bauman helped with gas.
They and many others have pledged more help, and Jerry Kennedy said he will haul a semi-load of hay. But the girls aren’t stopping there. Those of you who know Angel know that, when she is on a mission, things happen. Angel and Sis don’t think small. They dream big. I know Brad, too, and I dream big as well.
We want to find a donor who will give a four-wheel-drive truck, to which a remote starter can be affixed, and more user-friendly wheel can be installed. Angel wants to gather enough money to buy Brad some new teeth, or find a dentist who will donate his time to make that possible. We also hope to provide some hay and other necessities that will make his life easier. None of us expects all of this to come from this area, but hope that the people here in our hometown will open their hearts to a stranger, and then Brad’s home folks will open their hearts to their neighbor and friend.
Brad is not a charity case, nor would he want to be. He is a determined, hard-working young man who has overcome incredible obstacles without ever asking for a handout. In other words, he’s good people — just like the people here.
Like I said at the beginning or this article, if you are struggling during this Christmas season, focus on yourself and your own. If your heart pulls you to another area, please give there. But everyone can help this mission by liking our Facebook page (Sissy Christina Georges screenplay), or Googling “Lance’s Journal Brad Thomas,” clicking on the link, and sharing it (right now the video itself is archived, but we are trying to resurrect it).
If you can help this deserving young man in any other way, please contact Angel at (402) 883-2218 or me at 402-245-8145, (or message me on Facebook). If you want to send a check, make it out to Brad Thomas Fund, c/o Angel Ralph, 71830 652 Ave., Shubert, NE 68437. Most importantly, please share this story with others, especially through your social media. Let’s see if we can send a Christmas miracle to a very deserving young man.
Thank you for listening closely.
Do you hear what I hear? It’s the spirit of giving as it floats from heart to heart.
God bless you.