FARMINGTON – Powell Meister of AMVETS Post 113 couldn’t have been any happier than when he saw the look on 7-year-old MaKennah Barron’s face as she climbed onto the seat and grabbed the handlebars of her new battery-powered 4-wheeler.
It was an unexpected gift given to the youngster by the post following a Dec. 20 check presentation to her parents, Ashley and Nathan Barron.
“She’s borderline ecstatic,” Meister said as MaKennah and her 8-year-old brother, Hunter, had a ball riding the toy around a backroom that post members opened for their use.
“It was solid smiles and, boy, do I love seeing that in kids,” Meister said, grinning.
The check presentation was the culmination of a winter benefit run AMVETS held Dec. 14 for MaKennah who has been diagnosed with a rare form of brainstem cancer. Meister said the post had heard about the little girl’s illness and had seen fliers about fundraisers being held on her behalf around the area.
“We talked about it at one of our riders meetings and decided to put a winter benefit run together,” he said. “It’s pretty rare to get a good winter run, but we were blessed with the weather that day. We had it on Dec. 14 and we had an exceptional turnout — in fact, it was one of our best turnouts in a long time.
“We had 22 bikes with 35 actual riders and passengers — and I had a total of 40 volunteers for the event. We had food set up for them when the ride was done and I had donation cans set out for them at all the stops. Considering the time of year it was, we were still able to raise $650 for this family.”
All eyes were on MaKennah and her family as they gathered around the post Christmas tree. Post Commander Don Hawkins and Rob Moore, acting president of the AMVETS Riders, presented the check to the Barrons — but there was more to come.
“We asked MaKennah to pull some jackets off the stage, and when she did, she found something she hadn’t expected — a 4-wheeler,” Meister said. “You’ve never seen a more excited little girl.”
The youngster was handed a safety helmet and encouraged to try out her brand new toy. It didn’t take much to twist her arm.
“It looked like she’d ridden one of these before because she took off on it right away,” Meister said. “MaKennah never stopped once she got on it.”
Meister said post members were happy to be able to do something special to help out MaKennah and her family, along with several other groups who also took the time and effort to lend a hand.
“They were riders of outside entities who just wanted to come out for a good cause,” he said. “They wanted to be here today for the presentation, but they couldn’t make it.”
Meister explained that the 4-wheeler for MaKennah wasn’t part of the original plan for the check presentation.
“Terry Black, one of our AMVET lifetime members and a rider, contacted me this morning with an idea,” Meister said. “He wanted to get MaKennah a motorcycle. Well, I helped him look around for that, but when it was all said and done, we found a little 4-wheeler and went up this morning and Terry paid for everything out of his pocket.”
Meister said Black then donated the 4-wheeler to the post so it wouldn’t be just a gift from him, but from all post members and riders, as well.
“Now, not only do the parents have the money to help with whatever needs they have, but now MaKennah has something to take home special too,” he said.
Meister said he feels a lot of pride for AMVETS Post 113, which he describes as being “family oriented” and “one big family.”
“It wasn’t just the money we raised, but our membership showing up for support and everybody being here for the cause,” he said. “We do things first and foremost for our veterans, but we try to do things within our community.
“We want people to know what we’re about and to know the things we do to help out. Anytime there’s an opportunity to do that, our members step right up to the plate. I have never seen any hesitation whatsoever when something needs to get done.”
Meister offered his thanks to auxiliary member Gene Hannah for setup and cleanup and meat department Manager Kevin Shaffer at Country Mart in Bonne Terre, as well as the Save A Lot in Farmington for donating chips and buns for the winter run. But his words of appreciation didn’t end there.
“I also want to thank everybody who participated and everybody who came out, not just for the benefit run but for the presentation too,” Meister said. “It makes a big difference in your heart to see the family helped out like that.”
“It was solid smiles and, boy, do I love seeing that in kids.” — Powell Meister, AMVETS Post 113
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com