Troubled twins rebound as parade princesses after life-saving surgery and ardent support from a gang of community classic car loversBy Jay Larue
When you really get down to it doesn’t everyone, on some level, or another, love a Ford Mustang? This iconic car, owing very largely to the insight and forward thinking of one time Ford Motor Company executive Lee Iacocca, has been a consistent and ongoing flagship of Ford, since the birth of the Mustang in 1964. And interest has never waned. In fact, the mystique and love of Mustangs is well represented from the young to the young at heart! They’ve been around for 59 years and counting, so it’s no wonder the Ford Mustang has been so widely received and impacted all cultures and eras.
And when I speak of young persons loving Ford Mustangs I’m talking as young as 10 years old! Twins Sophia and Kaleigh Kendall are two very special little ladies. Born on July 4th, 2013, these identical twins were born completely incapable of breathing. Sophia, actually went 45 minutes without breathing. Kaleigh, 18 minutes.
Let that sink in for a minute.
According to their mother, a type of “webbing” that was approximately four mm in thickness was fused to their vocal cords, impeding their ability to breathe. This was a birth defect that almost cost the girls their lives. An emergency tracheotomy was performed on each girl. This is the only reason they are alive today. And the fact that they survived is nothing shy of a mind boggling! Today, the girls are trach-dependent. Each twin has a trach device over their throat, which acts as a kind of voice box. The girls speak very softly (almost like a whisper) and one must really listen intently to understand what they are saying. Trach-dependent living does offer a bit of adversity for the girls and their parents, even to this day. For example, before each girl naps, or sleeps, it is necessary to have them connected to a heart monitor so that their parents can monitor their pulse and breathing.
Despite an unfathomably stressful beginning for the twins’ family, the girls are thriving! Just one short month ago, they were freed from the feeding tubes that were necessary for their nourishment and are now eating on their own. They are doing well in school and are about to enter grade four in September. Their social development is very active and according to their mother, each girl has even experienced their first crush!
And both girls are car fans, particularly Mustangs and Lamborghini models. It is with this in mind that their parents posted on a local community group, asking if anyone with either a Mustang or a Lamborghini would be willing to pay the girls a visit, on, or near their birthday, July fourth. So, as I was outside, puttering around with my own Mustang, my wife Karen approached me and insisted I read the post that Sophia and Kaleigh’s mother Asher, had made. I read the posting and reached out to her immediately.
Let me introduce you to my FB Mustang group. We are Mustang Bandits. We formed in June 2023 and we have a simple credo at heart: Have fun, enjoy life and do good for others, when and where possible. We heard back from the twins’ mother and because the Mustang Bandits were taking part in the Canada Day Parade through Sackville, we asked if we could make them a part of this occasion. We got a resounding, “YES!” Plans went into effect immediately between myself and parade marshall Lester Strong (also a Mustang owner and Bandit member). In no time at all, a clear plan was made to feature the little twin sisters in our portion of the parade.
Mustang Bandits Administrator Jeff Quigley had an awesome idea! He said to me, “Why don’t we have the girls each sitting on the backs of two convertibles, up front in our group?” This was a “no brainer” and we set out to do this, right then and there.
Canada Day, Saturday, July 1st, was an overcast and foggy day, just as all the days for the week prior had been. But for the first time in several days the rain held off and we set out onto Sackville Drive amongst several floats and other local interest groups, like a Corvette club, motorcycle club and of course, a full brass and percussion band! The day may have been damp, but our spirits were not. Kaleigh and Sophia were up front, in full vigor, waving away amongst an array of loud noise, bright lights and enough bubbles from a huge industrial bubble machine to emulate a snow storm! They had a blast and the Mustang Bandits had just as much fun, as the two girls did! They were procession royalty and it is fair to say they stole the show and our collective hearts, with no effort, at all.
It was incredibly heartwarming to see the girls, one on the back of (Admin) Jeff’s white convertible, the other on the back of Bandit member Skye’s beautiful yellow convertible, side-by-side at the front of the line. And this really resonated with Skye, as she stated, “If owning a Mustang is a dream for the girls, it was great to have them up front. It was nice for them to see that a lady-owned Mustang is within their reach!” I think the Mustang Bandits gained two amazing little mascots on Canada Day. We will include these little warriors again. And, I reiterate, the Mustang Bandits are comprised of good people doing good deeds, for good causes. We were more than happy to lend our name and our Mustangs to this event. This was our first outing and we put it on, in fine style.
And we’d like to broaden our membership numbers. If you have a Mustang, have a desire to do good, charitable work for communities around Nova Scotia and would like to join our stampede, look us up on FB and join for free. We want to hear from you!
Sophie and Kaleigh’s parents. Bill and Asher cannot thank the doctors and surgeons at the IWK enough for their overwhelming abilities and selfless acts that they do every day. “They are absolute heroes,” they agreed. “They should be wearing capes! Without them, this would have been a very sad story, but thanks to their skills and fast decision making, we get to experience complete parenthood,” said Asher. And so, it would appear that miracles do in fact happen. And sometimes, they happen in the face of overwhelming odds. The twins, Kaleigh and Sophia remain living testaments to the power of hope and an inspiration as well.