Building Engines to Brighten Days

Earlier this year the Museum received a letter from Amy East of Brunswick, GA. Her son, 19-year-old Darren Pickren, is a Corvette enthusiast and mechanical engineering student at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Darren was on the President’s List, and Amy had purchased him a 1981 Corvette to restore. Life was good!

“Right before Christmas, his dreams of getting a degree and pursuing automotive engineering got put on hold with the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His prognosis is good, but this has been a real battle for him,” Amy wrote.

Amy had learned about the Engine Build Experience and wanted to inquire about Darren participating. “I would like to do something for him that will put a true ray of hope in his heart and a smile on his face.”

Because of how the Engine Build Experience is structured the Museum could not set Darren up with building an engine at the GM Plant, but instead offered the chance to come to the Museum and assist in the Maintenance and Preservation area.

“It was a surprise for the most part,” said Amy. “I didn’t tell him a lot right in the beginning. I knew it was his dream. He’s always wanted to build high performance engines and he’s always loved Corvettes. When he got sick with lymphoma I said ‘what can I do to put a smile on his face?’ So I emailed the people here at the Corvette Museum and they were an absolute blessing. It has brightened his days going through the chemo. He has a smile on his face all the time.”

Darren and his mom visited the Museum the first week of July, working with Daniel Decker to swap out an engine on a C6 Z06 Corvette. “We got to tear the car apart, get the engine, take it out piece by piece, take the newer one, put it back in piece by piece,” said Darren. “Corvettes have always been so special to me and I think a visit to this Museum and behind the scenes is just wonderful,” added Darren.

Amy, Daniel Decker (NCM Maintenance & Preservation) and Darren pull apart a Z06 engine.

According to Amy, the visit was an experience of a lifetime and a dream come true. “He has been on cloud nine since we came home. It means so much to me to see his spirits lifted this way.”

Darren had his last chemo treatment on July 12 and they’re hoping for the best. “He is excited to be able to go back to school soon and share his memories of the Corvette Museum. He sincerely has a new outlook on life and is thrilled about the prospects the automotive world has to offer,” added Amy.

We’d like to send prayers out to Darren that his treatment is successful and hope his school year gets off to a great start. It was a pleasure having hands on help with our Z06 and we’re happy to have two new friends!