BROCTON - As a longtime and active member of the American Legion Post in Brocton, Ken Parks got the surprise of a lifetime Sunday, when he learned that a benefit that he normally puts together for the good of the club, was actually being held in his honor.
The annual Lawnmower Run, usually organized by Parks, and typically held to benefit the scholarship fund of the Legion, as well as a building fund and other events had a different spin on things this year.
Parks, who has been wheelchair-bound for decades after a motorcycle accident, suffered a second accident when he was struck by a tractor trailer. It was during that accident that several vertebrae in his back were broken.
OBSERVER?Photo by Ann Belcher
Steve and Jean Milliman pose with their friend and fellow John W. Dill American Legion member Ken Parks at The Lawnmower Run held Sunday at the legion post in Brocton. Parks is usually the spearhead for the fundraising event, but this year, the Millimans steered the benefit in his direction to assist with mounting medical bills associated with three back surgeries he underwent earlier this year.
OBSERVER?Photo by Ann Belcher
Jean and Steve Milliman (forefront) lead off on their tractor as the Brocton Legion’s annual Lawnmower Run leaves the Damon Janes Memorial Event held at The Nickel Plate Depot Sunday.
Over the years of being wheelchair-bound, gravity and the second injury took hold, causing him to need surgery to repair what was wrong.
Since Parks is normally the one to organize the fundraising Lawnmower Run, his friends and fellow Legionnaires Steve and Jean Milliman couldn't think of a better way to put the fundraiser to good use.
"Ken has had to be opened up three times this year to repair broken vertebrae in his back. He literally has to heal from the inside out now and has medical bills as a result. The planning for this event has been going on since June, and he had no idea that it was to benefit him. He was really overwhelmed when he found out today, and people have been very generous knowing that it was for him. The community really rallied," explained Steve.
The Lawnmower Run started with tractors meeting at the Brocton Legion, and taking numerous stops along its route, including The Nickel Plate Depot where the Damon Janes Memorial Event was taking place. A benefit poker run was held along the way, and tractors made stops at a few residences before stopping at Portland's Community Park. The long line of tractors, some creatively themed then made its way back to the Legion, where hot dog and hamburger dinners were served, as well as a sizeable auction, and silent auction of high end items were waiting for tractor drivers. A record 70 plus tractors participated, more than double the normal attendance.
Remarking on the turnout of a few hundred people in attendance, Jean stated they will not be publicly revealing how much was raised and noted it would be going immediately to the benefit of Ken's medical bills.
Steve remarked on the community spirit of the weekend, noting a good turnout for both the Janes event held at The Nickel Plate Depot and the Lawnmower Run.
"I think it shows that we have a good community. Ken's very well known and well liked and doesn't have a selfish bone in his body. And I think as a community, we've shown we don't either," he stated.
Throughout the event, Ken was greeted by hugs from friends and family at every direction. Since his surgeries took place in March, April and May of this year, he noted he hadn't been out and about that much to have any inkling as to what was taking place with the run.
"I just really appreciate this very much. I have an amazing group of friends and really have to thank them for what they did. I have to especially thank Steve and Jeanie, the Legion, and all of the volunteers and the people who gave for the auction very much," stated Ken as he looked around at the full dining room at the Legion.
"I'm just so overwhelmed and truly want to thank everyone for this. And I look forward to running this again next year, and I hope to see this many tractors."
Anyone wishing to donate independently may do so by sending the funds directly to Steve in care of the Legion post notating that it's for medical bills for Ken.