One person can make a difference, and when that person is a 12-year-old 4-H member on a mission, she can make a big difference - to the tune of more than $9,000.
|Maddie Recker poses with her dairy beef feeder "Midnight" and is giving her premium of over $9,000 to the Appelhans family to visit Disney. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Maddie Recker, a member of the Blue Ribbon Rangers 4-H Club, is such a person whose compassion, kindness and determination has touched the hearts of many people.
Maddie's family is friends with the Appelhans family. When Trisha "Trish" Appelhans died June 22, she left behind her husband, Matt, and two daughters, Jordan, 8, and Josie, age 4.
Connecting with the young daughters who lost their mother to a rare form of oral, neck and head cancer, Maddie saw an opportunity to reach the hearts of the girls.
She decided to donate the proceeds from the sale of her dairy beef feeder project at the Junior Fair Livestock Sale on Monday to the family. Before her death, Trish Appelhans had hoped to take a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Maddie said she died before that trip could be financed and taken. What money had been saved for the trip was used for funeral expenses.
Not merely content to hand over whatever she received from the sale of her animal, Midnight, she went on a campaign to raise more money for Matt Appelhans to take his daughters to Disney. She mailed out at least 65 letters and hand-delivered another 50 or more.
"I can't bring their mother back, but if this can temporarily put a smile on their faces, I wanted to do it," Maddie said of her project.
She had an initial goal of raising $2,000. Maddie said if she didn't raise enough for the Disney trip, she thought maybe the girls could go to the American Girl in Columbus.
Her efforts and word of mouth boosted the total to more than $4,500 by Saturday. Maddie upped her goal to $6,000. When she entered the show ring with $8,000 in cash and pledges, her story moved a man to add another $1,000. The sale office let the window remain open to accept additional donations throughout the day.
Maddie, the daughter of Tina Hager and Skip Recker, was the lady of the hour.
"She got big applause and there wasn't a dry eye in the show arena," Recker said. "When you get the community involved, it is incredible what can happen."
Appelhans was not able to be in attendance for the sale, but when contacted by phone Monday afternoon, he said he admired and appreciated Maddie's efforts.
"I am just amazed that anyone would do that for us, but what that young lady, just 12 years old, was doing for me and my girls - it's unbelievable."
When his late wife was given the terminal diagnosis after a 10-plus year battle with the disease, Appelhans said the Disney trip "was one of her final wishes."
He still is in awe that this was all staged by a 12-year-old.
"It's just remarkable, the girls will love it," he said, adding, "They are now looking up to Maddie like a big sister, It's kind of neat to see."
Maddie said most of the money was raised through a lot of little donations, but a few large donors as well. She saw a need and just set out to fill it.
For those not familiar, Maddie explained a dairy beef feeder is mainly used as a hamburger source.
She added, "It is part dairy, part beef," explaining that dairy beef feeders come from dairy breeds, yet are used as beef stock.
Midnight weighed 105 pounds when she got him, and she fed him up to his sale weight of 543 pounds per the show sale booklet.
At the fair she was awarded second place in Junior Dairy Beef Showmanship with Midnight. She also showed sheep and pigs at the fair.
Appelhans is a full-time firefighter with the Perrysburg Township Fire Department, and an assistant chief with the Pemberville Fire Department.
"She's a remarkable young girl. She's just awesome," he said of Maddie.