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Mom of Charlottetown autistic teen says friendship with race car drivers has changed her son’s life

Charlottetown’s Kobe Stewart is a 17-year-old autistic boy who wasn’t really verbal or socially comfortable until he met and befriended stock car driver Robbie MacEwen. Kobe’s mother says the friendship has changed her son’s life.
Charlottetown’s Kobe Stewart is a 17-year-old autistic boy who wasn’t really verbal or socially comfortable until he met and befriended stock car driver Robbie MacEwen. Kobe’s mother says the friendship has changed her son’s life. - Contributed
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A Charlottetown mother says her autistic son has developed a bond with local race car drivers that has changed his life.

Yvonne Rose said she can’t find enough ways to thank those on the pro stock tour at Oyster Bed Speedway for what they’ve done for 17-year-old Kobe Stewart.

“I cannot repay these guys for what they’ve given him,’’ Rose said in an interview with The Guardian.

Kobe fell in love with race car driving when he was four years old, quickly developing a bond with some of the drivers at the track.

However, Kobe’s favourite driver stopped racing in 2015, leaving Rose to wonder how her son was going to cope.

“When Kobe takes to you, he’s very loyal. We were worried . . . what are we going to do?’’

That’s when Kobe befriended Robbie MacEwen, who owned a motorsports business just up the road from their house in the neighbourhood of Sherwood.

“He went into the shop. At the time, Kobe wasn’t real verbal so it was kind of really intimidating for him but Robbie welcomed him so much, it just felt so natural. At that time, Robbie was just getting into the pro stock tour (as a driver).’’

Yvonne Rose says she can’t put into words how much her autistic 17-year-old son, Kobe Stewart’s life has changed since he became a die-hard racing fan at the age of four and eventually befriended stock car driver Robbie MacEwen. - Dave Stewart
Yvonne Rose says she can’t put into words how much her autistic 17-year-old son, Kobe Stewart’s life has changed since he became a die-hard racing fan at the age of four and eventually befriended stock car driver Robbie MacEwen. - Dave Stewart

Kobe took to MacEwen so much that Rose ended up taking her son on the road to watch the races at the Nova Scotia tracks in Halifax and Antigonish and in Saint John, N.B.

“We were all over the place. All the boys (race car drivers) took him in and accepted him and let him be who he is. He learned so many good things. They took him under their wing. They treated him just like one of the team. When they got team shirts, he would always be included. Their girlfriends were always so good to Kobe, too, and still are. It’s just amazing.’’

Rose said she sits in on support groups with parents whose children have special needs. Many haven’t had the same opportunity Kobe has had with his race team.

“It has helped him immensely, socially. He has so much more self-esteem, confidence. He jumps into situations that he never typically would and I cannot repay these guys for what they’ve given him.’’

MacEwen could not be reached for comment.

Rose said she wants people with special needs children to know that anything is possible. The stock car drivers at Oyster Bed Speedway helped pull her son out of his shell; helped him become more verbal.

“The words they have given him . . . he went from (speaking) one word to six words and seven words at a time, like, complete sentences. It gives him something to talk about with his friends. (The drivers) are kind of like another family to him.’’

Kobe manages to find a few words for The Guardian.

“They see the real me,’’ the young race car fan said.

His mother said MacEwen and his colleagues could give lessons when it comes to inclusion.

Rose said she has delivered pizza and beer to the drivers dozens of times but feels nothing is enough to thank them for what they’ve done for Kobe.

“I never feel like it’s enough,’’ Rose said, getting emotional. “It’s pretty special. They’ve given him life lessons that, as a mom, I could never give him. He says, ‘Mom, they’re my friends’ or ‘Mom, that’s my boy’. That’s what he calls Robbie. 

"My heart just explodes.’’

Twitter.com/DveStewart
 

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