Sochi Souvenir

Published on Monday, 17 February 2014 22:00 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner, rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

An East Texas native was one of the three children nationwide who were selected by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to travel to the 2014 Olympics to watch Shaun White in the snowboarding competition.

Judson Stone, a 16-year-old 10th-grader at Overton High School, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Easter in 2012.

On the eve of Easter Sunday, Judson was with his parents visiting family in South Texas when his nose began to bleed — and wouldn’t stop. His parents took him to the emergency room.

The doctors did blood work, and immediately sent the Stones on a two-hour ambulance ride to MD Anderson in Houston.

“It’s all a blur,” Mrs. Stone said.

It was that same year that Judson applied to Make-A-Wish with the request to attend the 2014 Olympic snowboarding competition. Judson loves snowboarding himself, Mrs. Stone said, and takes a snowboarding trip once or twice a year. He has been snowboarding since he was 9 years old.

“We didn’t know if (the request to Make-A-Wish) would ever go through,” Mrs. Stone said. “It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Happily, Judson had a relatively short period with chemo treatments. He was diagnosed in April 2012 and was declared to be in remission that May.

The request to attend the Olympics was granted — with more than the Stones had hoped for.

The family (minus Judson’s older brother, Reid, who stayed to stay on top of his college studies) traveled to Moscow to stay at the Ritz Carlton, which has a partnership with Make-A-Wish. David Stone, Judson’s father, said he “didn’t have the adjectives” to describe the luxurious hotel.

“We were treated like royalty,” Mrs. Stone said.

Then, they traveled to Sochi to watch White, Judson’s “idol,” compete. Judson said he remembers watching White on the television win in the 2006 Olympics.

Despite the negative press Sochi has received lately, Mrs. Stone said the city is “very pretty and clean.”

They attended five events over the course of five days: the halfpipe snowboarding competition, short-track speed skating, team and pairs figure skating and one of Russia’s hockey competitions.

Unfortunately, White didn’t medal on the halfpipe.

“It was hard to watch him fall,” Mrs. Stone said.

All the family was expecting was tickets to the Olympics, but White arranged for the children to each be given an autographed snowboard that he had competed with.

“He sent an apology that they weren’t medal-winning boards, but to these kids, he’s the real winner,” Mrs. Stone said.

During his first lesson on a snowboard, Judson wore a yellow bib that read “Future Olympian.”

Does he still hope to compete one day?

“Maybe,” he said with a smile.