Caden Bowles loved everything on wheels. Whether it had four wheels or more wheels, 11-year-old Caden loved it, knew it, saw it or drew it.
And although he is gone, the wheels roll on with his spirit behind the wheel.
The fifth annual Caden’s Car Show, for young patients at CS Mott Children’s Hospital and their families will take place in his honor on Aug. 12 at U-M Hospital, showcasing a blend of over 50 rare and unique cars and trucks.
He would have been thrilled.
Caden, who died in 2013 while awaiting a heart transplant, had a seemingly unlimited fascination for cars. He sketched cars, he wrote about cars and possessed a remarkable knowledge of cars. He recited countless statistics with unmatched excitement, astounding many members of the medical staff and most adults with whom he chatted.
It seems only fitting that, every year since he died, Caden’s namesake auto extravaganzas have delighted children and their families through his unbridled appreciation for automobiles. They continue to carry Caden’s legacy and to help people remember the impact that he had on so many, according to his grandfather, Jack Bowles.
And it goes beyond that. Bowles said for him, Caden’s Car Show is all about bringing joy into young lives.
“It’s for the sick kids at Mott – we want them to just come out and enjoy a day of diversion. A day where they don’t have to think about their illnesses, where we can see those kids smile,” Jack Bowles said, through a big smile of his own at the 2016 show. “We’re so excited to see these children who are struggling healthwise come out and to see that smile on their faces.
“We love it.”
Caden Bowles was born fighting. He entered the world with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare condition that mandated a heart transplant at six weeks. Seven years later he developed Post-transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder, a cancer that is among possible side effects from the immunosuppressant medications Caden needed to prevent his body from rejecting the heart. He overcame cancer, but ultimately the donor heart he received as an infant failed and he passed away during the wait for a new one.
Caden didn’t win his final battle for life, but he won many hearts along the way, including that of Dr. John R Charpie, MD, PhD, who is Co-Director of the CS Mott Congenital Heart Center and Professor and Division Director of Pediatric Cardiology.
“Caden was born with a severe form of heart disease where half of his heart didn’t develop,” Dr. Charpie said. “At that point it was determined that he needed a heart transplant.”
Caden fared reasonably well over the next 11 years until, that is, he needed a second transplant when his heart began to deteriorate.
Dr. Charpie remembers Caden with fondness and bittersweet admiration.
“He didn’t know what the future held for him, but he went in with his eyes wide open, with tremendous bravery,” he said. “He was assuming the role of an adult many times and helping us know that everything would be ok.
“That was hard to listen to sometimes. It’s our job as adults to reassure our kids, to protect our kids, but Caden would do it for us.”
He calls his young patient “a remarkable child” who shared, through example, the importance of giving and conveying the message of how critically important organ transplants are to allow children (and adults) with organ failure to survive.
Caden’s Car Show, through donations and ticketing, raises that awareness and collects funds with each show – all while affording kids and their families the opportunity for fun in a private setting where no one thinks twice about a kid walking through a display of new and vintage automobiles in a hospital gown or toting an IV pole.
Team Caden is a mass of supporters among the driving forces behind Caden’s Car Show. It’s mission is this: to use the magic of cars to create extraordinary experiences for sick children, increase awareness of the need for organ donation, and increase investment in congenital heart research and pediatric heart transplants.
More 14,895 Americans are awaiting organ transplants, according to dmv.org and every 10 minutes, another person is added to the organ transplant list.
And though anyone can become a possible organ and tissue donor, numbers show that millions die annually without doing so and the resulting deficit is staggering. Every day, 20 people nationwide die due to the shortage of available organ donors. Like Caden did.
Caden Bowles is forever 11.
But even at that age he wanted the world to know one thing: give the gift of life. Register to be an organ and tissue donor, a marrow donor. Give blood. Be someone’s hero. It was his final wish.
“We owe it to the Cadens of the world,” Dr. Charpie said, “to make sure that everybody does everything they can to provide this life-saving opportunity for others who are waiting for organ transplantation.”
Caden’s Car Show
Caden’s Car Show is a private event for children at CS Mott Children’s Hospital and their families
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 12, from 1:30-3 p.m.
WHERE: University of Michigan Hospital, 1500 E. Medical Center Dr., Ann Arbor, MI
Caden’s Car Show is on the fourth floor of the P3 parking structure
COST: $10 per person. Children under two are free. Parking is $2 per car.
Tickets will be sold in advance only and are not available at the door. Everyone who enters, including children under 2, must have a ticket purchased in advance. Printed tickets or tickets presented on mobile devices will be accepted.
Exception: patients and their families that are bedded inpatients on the day of the car show do not need to purchase tickets.
For guests: Park in the P2 parking structure and enter and exit the car show through the elevator. Volunteers will be on hand to assist.
All proceeds from Caden’s Car Show will benefit Congenital Heart Research, Organ Donation Awareness and Pediatric Heart Transplant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
To register as an organ donor in Michigan, visit: Become an Organ Donor
Email the Caden’s Car Show Event Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
To register for the show, visit Purchase Tickets for Caden’s Car Show
Visit on Facebook: Caden’s Car Show
To make a contribution, visit: Donations