Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 22, 2013

Windfall boy gets to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy granted lifelong wish

Windfall – Twelve-year-old Royce Jones held up two pieces of scrap paper Monday scrawled with 11 questions for his idol Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The questions “What is your coolest trophy you got?” and “What is the one person you learned a lot from?” were written in the big, chunky letters of a young kid.

They were questions seven and 11 on the list.

And they were the questions that most impressed Earnhardt and his crew when Royce met them in Daytona recently through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

It was the trip of a lifetime for the Windfall boy, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. It’s a neuromuscular disease characterized by increasing muscle weakness and loss of muscle control, according to the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation. One in every 6,000 to 10,000 children is diagnosed with it.

But Royce doesn’t let it get him down.

Monday he talked animatedly about his trip to meet Earnhardt.

“It was exciting and fun and cool,” Royce said.

He spent about 25 minutes with Earnhardt at the beginning of the month snapping photos, getting autographs and asking questions.

Royce had at least six things signed, his mom, Sheral said. All of them have since been added to the boy’s Earnhardt shrine at home.

Royce has been collecting everything Earnhardt since he was 4 years old — the year he unexpectedly became a fan of the NASCAR driver.

“We don’t know why,” Sheral said with a laugh. “It just happened.”

Royce wanted to use his racing knowledge to show Earnhardt just how big of a fan he was. But he said he didn’t really get a chance.

He knows stats from before he was born, though. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation Monday, Royce rattled off racing knowledge.

“Royce knows everything,” Sheral said. “He’s an encyclopedia.”

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