By Ken Gibbs, Indiana Bass Federation Youth Director
During the Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel show I had a chance to talk with a young man by the name of Kenny Burkhart. This young man was at one time one of the Indiana Bass Federation’s junior anglers who participated in a junior club, fished the IBF Junior Trail, and was on several IBF Junior State Teams. While talking with him, he asked me if I could possibly do a favor for him. Being an outstanding young man now, I could only answer with a yes!
He proceeded to tell me a short story of a young child from Martinsville, IN. This child is a five year old little boy who loves monster trucks and fishing. His name is Michael Ray Soots. Michael has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. He has a brain tumor and is in need of a critical brain surgery scheduled for the beginning of April in Arizona. Kenny was asking me if there was anything that the Indiana Bass Federation could do for him, specifically he asked if I could get this child a “tournament fishing shirt”. Well, what do all of you think, my heart began to sink. I said absolutely YES! I asked Kenny to let me know more details as soon as possible.
Well, just a few days later I received a call from Teresa Brown who is the Wal-Mart store manager in Martinsville. She told me of a little something they had planned for Michael and wanted to know if I could be there. So on the 8th of March, Mary and I made a trip to Martinsville. Once there we went inside to meet with Teresa Brown. As soon as we walked in the door, there in the front isle was a stage, balloons, and a banner that said “Hearts and Hugs for Michael”.
Let me tell you, this little boy had a lot of friends and family. As we prepared for Michael’s arrival, others began showing up. There was a local church choir there to perform. The Mayor of Martinsville was there. Wal-Mart store employees and truck drivers from the local Wal-Mart distribution center, which included Michael’s grandpa, were there. There were local news paper and radio people. The Martinsville fireman, policeman, and local residence were there. And yes, even the Easter Bunny appeared. Then Michael arrived with his Mom, Dad, and sister. Smiles were everywhere, especially on that little boys face! A huge applause erupted.
Teresa Brown started off by first thanking everyone for taking the time to be there, then the presentations began. The church choir sang for everyone. The Mayor gave Michael a key to the city and declared that the city was “Michael’s for the Day!” The Wal-Mart truck drivers, including his Grandpa, gave Michael an official driver’s shirt, Honorary Drivers Certificate, and a check to the family. Then Mary and I proudly represented the Indiana Bass Federation by presenting Michael with a brand new rod & reel, a new Ranger Boats hat, and Michael’s very own “Indiana Bass Federation, FLW/TBF, Ranger Boats Tournament Shirt”.
He also received from the “Adopt an Angler” program a tackle box full of Touchdown Lure products. He also has a standing invitation from the IBF to go fishing with us as soon as he possibly can. The wonderful employees of Wal-Mart, through their “Hearts & Hugs” program, raised and presented the family with a check for over $2,500 dollars! All of this, as well as donations from several other companies. Then everyone enjoyed some cake just before a parade of police cars, fire trucks, and Wal-Mart semi trucks paraded though the streets of Martinsville.
Let me tell you, that little boy had a bigger smile on his face then he had when he arrived, and especially on his Mom’s, Dad’s, and proud Grandpa’s faces.
The hearts and prayers of the entire Federation
go out to Michael and his Family.
To Kenny Burkhart, we thank you!