by Bob Snead

We’re excited to introduce the first in our ongoing series entitled Upturn. The goal of each Upturn wallet is to depict one person’s story of survival with abstracted forms, patterns, or illustrations. Each story is hand picked from submissions to our free wallet program.

the story

The Upturn: Firebird wallet is based on the life of Kenneth Gourley, a muscle car mechanic that has spent twenty years helping his son fight Cystic Fibrosis. With waning business and bankruptcy around the corner, Kenneth remains the cornerstone of his family. His wife, Jennifer, requested a wallet on his behalf and submitted this:

I’m married to my best friend of 30 years. We have two wonderful boys and live in rural Norman, Oklahoma on a small acreage where we raise miniature horses. My 21 year-old, Kenny, has Cystic Fibrosis and in reality our entire family fights this disease. Kenny was diagnosed at 14 months old and we were told he’d never see first grade. Since the age of 16, Kenny is in the hospital 2-6 times a year for two-week “tune-ups” when the infection in his lungs gets too bad to fight with oral and inhaled meds. We have a wonderful pulmonary specialist, respiratory therapists and the most awesome nurses in the world. They, and other families with CF, are all part of our extended family. In 2008, we started working with a transplant team in case Kenny gets so sick that he needs a double lung transplant. The goal is to avoid that because of the risks and mortality rates and so far we’re doing well.

We don’t let CF rule our lives. I work at the University of Oklahoma in the Art School and I feel like I have 2 kids at home and 400 at work. I’m also a student at OU trying to finish a bachelor’s degree that I started before I had children. My husband restores old muscle cars and we all have nice rides! My car is a 72 Mach I Mustang, Kenny has a Mitsubishi tuner, my younger son Kiefer has a fun truck, and Kenneth is finally working on his own 65 Mustang. He always puts himself last. The economic situation hit us hard, mostly because when people are facing tough money decisions, it’s the toys (hot rods and performance cars) that come last in the family budget. In addition, Kenneth had to have surgery on his neck and spinal cord this past March and was unable to work for weeks. Because Kenneth gives so much of himself – to me, to our boys, our family and friends – we had many people step in to help out. Unfortunately, we are one of those many families that are one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and we are now in the process of filing. It’s embarrassing, but we still have our home and more importantly, each other.

wallet details

This design by Bob Snead, depicts the repair of a legendary Pontiac Firebird which represents the Gourley’s struggle with Cystic Fibrosis. Their son’s battle is much like the mythic Phoenix’s infinite life cycle of rebirth, and the Gourleys will continue repairs and “tune ups” at any cost to keep their bird moving down the road. Each wallet is handmade in the USA with a hand printed exterior, 4 credit card slots, ID window slot, two hidden pockets, and twenty bucks printed in the bill slot. Full size of wallet is 8.5”x3.5” folded 4.25”x3.5” developed from a mix of durable canvas, vinyl, and nylon. Limited Edition of 100.

A portion of proceeds from this wallet will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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