When a photo of precious Hadley Rose Little made its way around the internet, it garnered tens of thousands of shares and reached over a million people. The story behind the seemingly innocent photo of the darling little girl, though, captured a moment that represented a quietly joyous celebration for the successful culmination of a struggle the family had faced for many years.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #184, the State of Drag Issue, in September/October of 20.]
Shot by Kris Ledford of O.G. Media while Steven Little fielded his twin-turbo and nitrous-injected 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 at the War in the Woods No Prep race at Brown County Dragway in Indiana, 3-year-old Hadley proudly donned her favorite princess dress and backed her father up after his burnout with her mother, Lexi, overseeing just a few steps behind.
Under the hood of “Tha Kraken,” a stock bore 5.3-liter LS engine built by Steven with a complete Brian Tooley Racing rotating assembly, is boosted by a set of Forced Performance 7875 turbochargers and gets an extra jolt from the integrated Nitrous Express system. The old-school, back-halved, small tire Camaro utilizes a ladder bar-style suspension with 2JMFAB shocks at all four corners along with a Freakshow Performance 2-speed Powerglide transmission and torque converter.
It wasn’t the car that stole the show, though, as Hadley easily outshone her father simply by standing on her own two feet.
Walking without issue was a monumental occasion for Hadley, as the child had been plagued with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and was born with severe bilateral club feet. Ironically, the day the photo was taken – June 3, 2023 – was also World Clubfoot Awareness Day.
“Hadley has been on the starting line since I was pregnant with her,” shares Lexi, 27. Lexi’s pregnancy coincided with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and the mother-to-be was met with all sorts of unprecedented challenges in addition to her child’s complex complications.
In addition to Hadley’s IUGR and club feet, Lexi suffered from several other issues which made for a high-risk pregnancy. Coupled with the fact that Steven, 32, was not allowed in for any of the appointments due to the COVID-related restrictions, Lexi had to go through all of the stress on her own.
“I was at the doctor’s or hospital three times a week getting transfusions, having check-ins, and making sure she [Hadley] was still alive,” Lexi recounts of the trying times. “She was born very early and that was traumatic, too, to where we weren’t sure she was alive during birthing.”
Fortunately, Hadley made it through and came to life happy and healthy – but it wasn’t clear if the newborn would ever walk on her own. Five days later, Hadley was asleep in her mother’s arms on the starting line as Steven – who has appeared on Street Outlaws: Fastest in America and has racked up some seriously impressive wins over the past three years – continued to chase his passion and promote his race parts distribution and consulting business, Kraken Race Supply.
After years of traveling hours from their home in Austin, Texas, to see specialists, multiple surgeries, extensive, physical therapy, and poor Hadley being in leg casts for the first nine months of her life, the sweet little girl has graduated to wearing braces only at night. While she still has years to go before the family will know if her condition will return, the fact that Hadley is now able to walk and play is one of the greatest gifts the Little family has ever received.
“People get held back with excuses, but when it’s your child, you have no choice – you have to do whatever it takes,” notes Lexi, who works both at the couple’s Premier Restoration water restoration company and as a life coach and encourages people to believe that it’s possible to overcome any limitation. Steven, too, agrees that the strategy is effective both in life and in racing.
After dealing with their daughter’s tumultuous journey, the Little family, which also includes two young sons, Hunter and Bradley, has taken a harrowing experience and turned it into a lesson of courage that extends far past their own involvement. No matter how dark a situation may seem, there’s always hope for a happy ending. And for a win light.