Ian Lance wants to help others

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2014

If there are indeed angels among us, surely Ian Lance is one of them.
Ian, the middle of Angela and Daryl Lance’s three boys, has been on the receiving end of a lot of prayers in his 10 years. Born with congenital scoliosis and a tethered spine, he’s had four major surgeries, starting when he was 4.
But that has never distracted Ian from two great passions — becoming a police officer and helping others.
The police part is obvious as soon as you meet Ian. He wears police patches on his shirts, drives a miniature police car in his driveway and has a Salisbury Police car woven into the afghan on his bed.
His mother arranged a visit with Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins right before Ian’s third surgery, in 2011. Collins has stayed in touch ever since.
It was Ian’s fourth surgery in February of this year that sparked an idea connected to his other passion. Ian emerged with an urgent sense of mission. According to his mom, he said Jesus had been with him and helped him through his surgery, and now Ian wanted to do something for someone else — for other children who were going through a hard time.
Sitting on the couch in his family’s den, Ian explains his reasoning.
“I want them to know a friend like I have,” he says. “God told me that my mission on Earth was to tell others about Him.”
The family goes to Calvary Baptist Church in Statesville. Religion has meant a lot to a little boy whose back surgeries sound like the makings of a hardware store: two rods, 13 screws and eight fusions.
But anyone who talks to Ian is likely to think more about his heart than his back, a mature servant’s heart in a 10-year-old boy.
Mom Angela is used to helping Ian help others — with a charity walk here or a food drive there. This time they decided to focus on helping the children who go to the Battered Women’s Shelter with their mothers, children who may feel suddenly homeless.
The Lances learned the shelter had a new playroom that needed toys.
Instead of a toy drive, though, Ian is asking the children of Rowan County to help him with a dollar drive. He’s asking each child to send $1 to the Family Crisis Council, which operates the shelter at an undisclosed location.
“He came up with a dollar because a lot of families don’t have extra,” Angela says. But they might be able to spare $1.
The Lances wanted to include Ian’s brothers, Noah and Luke, in the effort, so they used all three boys’ initials — I, N and L — to come up with a name for the drive: “I Need Love.”
People who want to support the Lances’ effort may send donations to the Family Crisis Council, c/o I Need Love, 131 W. Council St., Salisbury, N.C. 28144.
The shelter will buy the toys with the money raised through I Need Love. A friend who said Ian’s story touched his heart is donating Bibles for children at the shelter, if they want them.
“I want to do it to help the homeless children to have toys to play with and free Bibles,” Ian says.
Ian knows what a comfort toys can be. A look in his bedroom shows he’s something of a Lego master, with shelves of completed projects, a specially designed table holding a Lego tower and more Legos stored under his bed.
The top two shelves are dedicated to Legos from Timmy Belcher, a friend who struggled with cancer. Ian helped several years ago with a benefit for Timmy and his family, a walk that was very successful.
Timmy died at the age of 16. In a handwritten will, he left his Legos to Ian.
“For a child who can’t get out and run and play, this is what he does a lot,” Angela says, pointing to the Legos.
She home-schooled Ian this spring when he could not get to classes at Woodleaf Elementary. Principal Sue Herrington kept Ian in the loop by emailing him regularly. Through the magic of computers and a Facetime account, he was also able to take part in reading with the rest of his class.
Through it all, he has maintained a friendship with the Chief Collins, whose wife, Traci, is Woodleaf’s school nurse.
Collins has been touched by Ian since the day they met in 2011.
“He spoke a lot about his faith,” Collins says. “As a little fella, that was impressive.”
The two made a connection, and “I didn’t want that to drop,” Collins says.
The day they met, Ian had on a navy blue police uniform, and the chief was wearing a white uniform shirt. Ian asked his mother to sew police patches on a white shirt after that.
“I think he about wears that white shirt out,” Collins says.
Ian has a framed photo of Collins on his bedroom wall, as well as a letter Collins sent him. There’s also a certificate from being sworn in by the China Grove Police, and the Police Officer’s Prayer.
It’s not unusual for a child to say he wants to be a police officer, Collins says, but Ian’s interest is extraordinary.
The two have been out to lunch a couple of times — Zaxby’s is one of Ian’s favorites — and to the movies, Collins says.
Before Ian went into surgery at Duke Medical Center in February, Collins called to share a prayer. And the day after Ian’s surgery, the chief visited him in the hospital in Durham.
“He’s become someone special to me,” the chief says.
Collins says he hates to see Ian go through so much, but he believes there’s a purpose to it all and says Ian does, too.
“I do believe he shares in the understanding that he’s going through what he’s going through because it’s part of the Lord’s plan,” Collins says. “… That’s sustaining his heart.”
Ian says he’d rather think about others than himself. He maintains a long prayer list and prays out loud 20 to 30 minutes a night — something his brother sometimes complains about from the top bunk, Ian says.
Sometimes you need to do more than pray, though, which is why Ian wants to raise money for the children’s play room at the Battered Women’s Shelter, a dollar at a time.
You might think it’s his mother’s doing — and clearly she lends a guiding hand. But Ian volunteers his own explanations, talking about helping homeless children and spreading the word of God.
Ian’s mother seems somewhat amazed by this son of hers — by his faith, his resilience, his determination to focus outward on others instead of himself. “I truly believe God answers prayer,” she says. “I know he has through Ian.”
To contribute to I Need Love, send donations to Family Crisis Council, c/o I Need Love, 131 W. Council St., Salisbury, N.C. 28144.