Philip Smith, 13, Named First Winner in 2017 Bikes for Kids Program
Middle school can be a trying time, as kids test the boundaries and explore their newfound freedom. It is a time when fitting in and going along with the crowd might seem like the easiest thing to do. But, for Shepherd Middle School student Philip Smith, doing what is right is more important.
“When I see someone being bullied, I step between the bully and the other person,” Smith said.
Smith, 13, was nominated by one of his teachers, Kristi Bush, to win a mountain bike from Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“Philip is very kind to other students and very respectful to teachers,” Bush wrote in her nomination. “He shares concerns about other students and honestly wants to help them make good decisions. He takes to heart what teachers and other speakers say about student safety and responsible decisions, and he asks questions about how he can help other students.”
Gail Stallkamp, Smith’s mom, was completely shocked when she found out he had won a bike. She didn’t even know Bush had nominated him.
“I’m always glad to hear people say good things about him and recognize how hard I worked to raise him,” Stallkamp said.
Smith said it makes him feel good to help other people. “It helps them out, so they don’t have to do it all by themselves,” he said.
Allison Quast-Lents, owner of Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant, helps winners choose a bike, helmet, and lock when they visit her store.
“Getting to help a hardworking kid pick out the bicycle they won is the favorite part of my week, every week,” Quast-Lents said. “I love hearing the stories of how they helped make our community a better place.”
Smith loves to be outside, and he’s looking forward to riding his new bike to his friend’s house this summer.
Peyton Duncan, 8, Wins Second Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Peyton Duncan, 8, of Clare, wanted a new bike for his birthday coming up in September. Little did he know he would be getting that present early, and from an unexpected source. Duncan was nominated by his classmate’s mom to win a mountain bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Duncan and his family had no idea Jennifer Owens nominated him for the recognition.
“I felt really happy, since Corbin has been my best friend since preschool,” Duncan said.
Owens’ son, Corbin, is autistic and will be going into third grade with Duncan this fall.
“He takes him on sensory breaks and helps reassure and calm him down when things get overwhelming,” Owens wrote in her nomination. “He often talks about how much he loves to help Corbin and hopes they will continue to be in the same class. Did I mention this is an 8-year-old ‘popular’ boy that has helped Corbin be accepted by his peers that may not otherwise care? Peyton has a heart of gold and deserves recognition.”
Duncan enjoys spending time with Corbin and helping him find the answers to his work at school.
“It makes me feel warm in the heart, and I just like helping people,” he said. “If you help other people, they will do good stuff for you and be nice to you for the rest of your life.”
Duncan’s mom, Danielle, and his dad, Jim, said finding out about the nomination was “a very proud, proud moment.” They talked about how Corbin knows he can go to Duncan for comfort if he is having a rough day.
“He’s always been kind of an old soul,” Danielle said. “He and Corbin just clicked in preschool.”
Allison Quast-Lents, owner of Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant, showed Duncan how to take care of his bike and helped him get ready to ride.
“As a parent, I can relate to these proud parents that are almost more excited about their kids winning a bicycle in the Bikes for Kids program,” Quast-Lents said. “The kids are excited about the bicycles, but the parents are proud that they did something right.”
Aydn Schwartz, 13, Wins Third Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
For 10 years, Adyn Schwartz, 13, has volunteered at HopeWell Ranch in Weidman. During the summer, he is there three days a week, and during the school year, he is there every Wednesday. His hard work and dedication spurred his mom to nominate him to win a mountain bike from Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Schwartz was excited when his mom, Lisa, told him he had won a bike.
“I didn’t know I was nominated,” he said. “She just bombed me and told me that.”
Lisa said she was “speechless” when she found out her son was going to be recognized. She spoke about his volunteer work at HopeWell in her nomination.
“Aydn has selflessly toiled in service to HopeWell Ranch for literal years of his life,” she wrote. “His first visit was at 3 years old, when he went to help his dad erect a hay barn. At 7, he began in the junior volunteer program and has consistently been there two to three days per week each summer since. … He loves the ranch and will stop at nothing to see it be a place where anyone can belong.”
HopeWell Ranch, a nonprofit organization, uses horses to reach out to children and people who may have emotional, spiritual, physical and social needs. Lisa said the ranch has helped Schwartz even more than he has helped them.
“It gives him a place to be himself,” she said. “It has helped him develop his character and self-esteem.”
Schwartz said his favorite thing about the ranch is the horses, especially when he gets to ride Roman.
“I do anything they need me to do, like picking up manure or cleaning port-a-potties,” he said.
Jodi and Ty Stuber, owners of HopeWell, along with Schwartz’s mom, his dad, Joel, and three of his siblings, came to Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant to see Schwartz pick out his new bike, helmet, and lock. Jodi talked about what makes Schwartz a great volunteer.
“His willingness,” she said. “He’s always willing to do what needs to be done. He doesn’t slouch. He’s an amazing young man.”
Attorney Joseph Barberi enjoys meeting the bike winners, their families, and friends. He gives the children a certificate recognizing them for their acts of kindness.
“It was a pleasure to meet Aydn and his family,” Barberi said. “Jodi and Ty invited me out to the ranch, and I look forward to seeing the work they do to help others.”
Schwartz said it makes him happy to help other people.
“I like their expressions the most,” he said.
Schwartz is homeschooled in Lake Isabella, and he is looking forward to riding his bike this summer when he’s not playing with his Legos or spending time at the ranch.
“This is the nicest bike I’ve ever had,” he said.
Genavieve Huntoon, 8, Wins Fourth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Do you remember the first time you heard your parents say your name? It’s probably not a day you remember distinctly, but for Genavieve Huntoon, 8, it is something she has been waiting her whole life to hear. Two weeks ago, she heard her mom call her by name.
“She wasn’t facing me, and she just whipped around,” Delani, Huntoon’s mom, said. “I asked her, and she knew I said her name.”
Huntoon was born profoundly Deaf, meaning she could not hear anything. It was her choice to have surgery in December to get a cochlear implant, which was activated in January, so she is slowly starting to hear and put together more sounds and words.
Huntoon was nominated to win a mountain bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. She volunteers in the nursery at Thrive Church every Sunday. Sarah Burkhart, Thrive Kidz director, nominated Huntoon.
“We are a portable church, so each week we have to set everything up,” Burkhart wrote in her nomination. “She helps set up our nursery and toddler area every week, so little kids have a place to hang out while their parents go to church. … She is showing other boys and girls her age what it takes to learn to hear.”
Burkhart came to Motorless Motion with Huntoon and her parents to pick out her new mountain bike and helmet.
“She’s an example to the other kids,” Burkhart said. “It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can get up and volunteer. She is our youngest volunteer.”
Huntoon helps put the mats together for the nursery, and she picks out the toys she thinks the children would like to play with each week. She makes sure there are toys for boys and girls available, and she enjoys helping with the younger kids, Delani said.
“She can relate to their gestures and limited speech,” Delani said. “She knows what to do to keep them happy.”
Huntoon was very excited when she found out she won a bike. She and her family had no idea Burkhart had nominated her.
“I had to explain it to her three times,” Delani said. “It was a nice surprise.”
Huntoon lives in Blanchard and attends school at Central Montcalm. For five weeks this summer, she is attending speech camp at Central Michigan University.
“She is enjoying music class for the first time ever,” Delani said. “She thought it was pretty boring before, but now is developing an appreciation for it.”
Delani said it could take a few years before Huntoon’s hearing totally develops. Speech camp helps her process sounds and the words they represent, then she stores those away in her memory.
“It will open a lot of doors for her,” Delani said. “It will make things easier for her.”
Vincio Fernandez, 11, Wins Fifth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Vincio Fernandez, 11, may be shy and soft-spoken, but his actions speak volumes to those around him. His helpfulness and ambition are two reasons why his mom, Mallory, nominated him to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“Vincio is an amazing child inside and out,” Mallory wrote in her nomination. “He is constantly helping out with his younger brothers because he knows that being a single mom working full time is hard on me. Last summer, he gave up his entire summer just to help me take care of his brothers. … For only being a sixth grader, he sure is an amazing role model for not only his friends and brothers, but myself, too.”
Fernandez was really excited when his mom told him he was chosen to win a mountain bike from Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant. He had no idea he had been nominated, or what his mom said about him in her nomination.
“It just makes me really happy that she actually thinks that,” he said.
Fernandez said it makes him happy when he helps others, or when others help him.
“Then, they have time to do stuff for themselves, instead of doing the stuff they need help with,” he said.
Mallory said Fernandez, who goes to school in Beal City, maintains a 4.0 GPA and received academic awards in all of his classes. She said he also signed up to join the cross country team, which requires him to run 1.5 miles a day, except for Friday.
“I don’t really exercise, so I wanted to start,” Fernandez said about joining cross country.
He said he is looking forward to being a part of the team and doing things with his teammates. In the meantime, he likes to read, play with his brothers and play video games. He is also looking forward to “just riding my bike around.”
Mallory cried when she found out Fernandez was selected to win a bike, helmet and lock.
“I was shaking,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Mallory said Fernandez babysits his brothers, helps put them to bed at night, and helps get them dressed in the morning.
“He tries to teach them right from wrong,” she said.
Drew Novak, 11, Wins Sixth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Not one, but two teachers, thought of the same student when they were preparing to write nominations for Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. Rachel Jaksa and Amy Weber, teachers at Fancher Elementary in Mt. Pleasant, both said Drew Novak, 11, was at the top of their lists.
“He jumps right to the top of your head when you’re thinking about kids that do the right thing all the time,” Weber said.
Jaksa and Weber sent in a joint nomination about Novak, who will be a sixth-grade student at West Intermediate this fall.
“He is kind, caring and respectful to all,” they wrote. “He is a young man whose small acts of kindness have made a huge difference in our classrooms and school. He is very inclusive of every student, no matter what. … We have witnessed him working with students with challenging behaviors and do nothing more than simply be their friend. … He offers to help when needed and leads his class by example.”
Novak said he was very surprised when he found out he won a mountain bike and even more surprised when he found out his teachers nominated him. He said it makes him feel awesome to help other people.
“I like the fact that if you help someone, it could help them succeed in the future,” Novak said. “It’s best to help if they’re struggling or not.”
Novak, his parents, Jason and Michelle, siblings and teachers came to Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant to pick up his bright green bike, helmet, and lock. His parents were very proud that Novak’s teachers nominated him for the program.
“It’s really cool to hear other people say those things about your kid,” Jason said. “This program is an unbelievable reinforcement, reaffirmation of what they’re doing.”
Attorney Joe Barberi enjoys meeting the bike winners and their families.
“I am always excited to learn who my staff has selected to be the weekly winner,” Barberi said. “I am especially delighted when teachers nominate them for what they do in the classroom like Drew has.”
Novak and his family moved to Mt. Pleasant from Nashville, Tennessee, two years ago and they enjoy all the outdoor activities Michigan has to offer, no matter what the season.
“I love to go fishing with my dad,” Novak said.
Faith Schuch, 14, Wins Seventh Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
When you take your mom’s cell phone on a youth group trip with you, you never know what kinds of calls you might get. Faith Schuch, 14, was in Florida when she found out she was chosen to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“I kind of had a sense it was supposed to be a surprise,” Schuch said about the call. “I was really happy when I found out.”
Schuch was nominated by Jodi Stuber, owner of HopeWell Ranch in Weidman, for all the volunteer work she does helping kids at the ranch.
“She gives 110 percent at everything she sets her mind to,” Stuber wrote in her nomination. “Faith began helping at the ranch as a general volunteer, and has worked her way up to Wrangler and now assists with lessons. … Faith is devoted, determined and dependable. This young lady is truly beautiful inside and out, and she has really helped us with our mission of assisting people in their quest of finding hope and healing! … I am inspired daily by her drive and passion!”
Schuch volunteers at the ranch three days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She has been helping out for six years, and she really enjoys working with the kids and horses. Schuch said when she is instructing the kids, she likes to start them off easy, play some games and lead them around until they get comfortable.
“I just like knowing that I can impact someone else’s life,” she said. “The horses and kids are both good for each other.”
Schuch, who will be a ninth grader at Beal City High School, also talked about why she thinks it’s important to help other people.
“There are a lot of people out there who need our help and love,” she said. “And, if you can give it to them, you might as well.”
Stuber and her husband, Ty, along with Schuch’s mom, Tania, visited Motorless Motion in downtown Mt. Pleasant to help Schuch pick out her bike, helmet, and lock. Tania knew Stuber had nominated Schuch but had no idea what the nomination said. Tania described how she felt after hearing what Stuber wrote.
“It warms my heart,” she said. “I was honored and excited for her. It is well deserved.”
Tania explained how when Schuch was in kindergarten, she brought home a picture she drew of a house with a fence, a horse, and a racecar. Shuch said then that she wanted to have a ranch with horses and drive a racecar. Not only does Schuch work with horses on a ranch, but she also does drive a racecar.
“She is fulfilling her passion,” Tania said.
Schuch races a four-cylinder Honda at Berlin Raceway and Spartan Speedway on Fridays and Saturdays, most weekends from June through September. Tania said Schuch is always busy doing something, and she runs cross country and track during the school year.
Schuch also has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which she takes medicine and has to get infusions for every four weeks. However, Stuber said Schuch doesn’t let that stop her.
“If we give her a challenge, she rises to it,” Stuber said. “She never backs down.”
Brock Binder, 10, Wins Eighth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Brock Binder’s love of baseball, and his willingness to teach other kids about his favorite sport won him a new mountain bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Binder, of Mt. Pleasant, was on the Union Township All-Star team this summer and also plays for the Mt. Pleasant Drillers. He plays shortstop and pitcher when on the field, and he was nominated to win a bike by family friend, Heidi Mahon.
“Brock Binder is a caring young man who always looks out for everyone around him,” Mahon wrote in her nomination. “He has diabetes and underwent heart surgery, but that doesn’t define him and definitely hasn’t limited his activities. Brock loves playing baseball. He is usually the kid to start the pick-up baseball game in the yard and he encourages all kids to play with him. He is very patient with younger children, helping them understand the details of baseball. … Brock exhibits the positive community spirit alive in Mt. Pleasant, and I expect we will continue to see more positive aspects in Brock as he continues to grow and mature.”
Binder and his parents, Jim and Maggie, didn’t know Mahon had nominated him to win a bike. He said it felt awesome to hear the things Mahon wrote about him.
“I am just proud of him and his efforts,” Maggie said.
Binder said it just feels right to help other people and include them in things you are doing.
“If you don’t let people play, it might make people feel bad,” he said. “And, I don’t want people to think that about me.”
Maggie talked about how Binder doesn’t have a lot of experience riding a bike since he has a scooter and rides that all around. She said his brother Brody just got a new bike, so the two boys will learn how to ride together.
Maggie, Brody, Mahon and her husband, Andy, were at Motorless Motion to see Binder pick up his bike, helmet, and lock. Allison Quast-Lents, owner of Motorless Motion, helped Binder test out his new bike by walking along with him as he rode to help him keep his balance.
Binder had double valve replacement surgery, called a Ross Procedure, in March 2016. He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a tricuspid aortic valve. He also had another heart surgery back in 2010.
“It only took about three weeks for him to start throwing a baseball again,” Maggie said.
Even when Binder isn’t on the field with a team, he’s still playing baseball.
“I like to have home run derbys in my backyard with my brother,” he said.
Jarrad Johnson, 14, Wins Ninth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Putting others before himself is second nature to Jarrad Johnson, 14, of Winn. So, when he found out he won a mountain bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program, he thought about who could use the bike more than he could.
“I like to run places, and I have a bike,” Johnson said. “So, I want to give the bike to someone who would use it more than me.”
Johnson’s giving personality is what led two Shepherd Middle School staff members, Marta Escamilla and Winnay Wemigwase, to nominate him to win a bike.
“He is the most kind-hearted kid I have ever met,” Escamilla wrote in her nomination. “He is 14 years old, and he places the needs of everyone else before his own. … For a teenage boy, he is respectful of everyone … teachers, adults and fellow students. I have never, in my 18 years of working at Shepherd Schools, met a kid like Jarrad.”
Johnson was thrilled to find out he won the bike and had no idea he was nominated.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing things right,” he said. “To get picked out of that many kids in the county is crazy.”
Johnson said he doesn’t think about helping others, it’s just something he feels he’s supposed to do.
“In my mind, I don’t get too emotional or need much, so when somebody else does, why not help?” he said. “I would rather go without.”
Johnson also said it feels good to try and make someone else’s day better.
“It makes them have a great feeling within themselves,” he said.
Johnson’s mom, Lisa, and his brother came to Motorless Motion with him to pick out his new bike, helmet, and lock.
“It has just been a wonderful experience,” Lisa said. “I was totally surprised and I couldn’t believe it. I just don’t know why he would want to give it away, but that’s just who he is.”
Johnson loves to play sports, specifically basketball and will be a ninth grader at Shepherd High School this fall. He loves to go fishing at Horseshoe Lake in Lakeview and canoeing with his brother.
Elizebeth Tarrant, 12, Wins 10th Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Elizebeth Tarrant, 12, always thinks about what she can do to help others. Her constant desire to give is what spurred her grandma to nominate her to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. Tarrant didn’t know she was nominated and was very happy to find out.
“I was noticed for all the good things I do, and she notices all the good I do,” Tarrant said about her grandma’s nomination. “I don’t look for a gift for helping others, though.”
Her grandma, Sheila, said Tarrant is a member of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and volunteered at a soup kitchen when she lived in Laramie, Wyoming.
“Elizebeth told me she believes the best way to help someone believe in themselves is to show them respect and look beyond the circumstances they may have gotten themselves into,” Sheila wrote in her nomination. “Her passion is to be involved with the homeless.”
Sheila and Tarrant’s sister came to Motorless Motion to help Tarrant pick out her new mountain bike, helmet, and lock. Tarrant was looking at the flyers while waiting there, noticed one asking for help, handed it to her grandma and said they needed to help.
“I like when after I help someone, the look on their face just says thank you,” Tarrant said. “Because if you help someone, and someday you need help, they will help you.
Tarrant lives in Clare, but will be an eighth-grader at Renaissance Academy in Mt. Pleasant. She moved back to Michigan in January, after living in Wyoming for a while. She enjoys going to events for the YAC and helping distribute grants.
“She got involved because she wanted to find all the resources available to help others in the community,” Sheila said.
Tarrant is spending her free time this summer hanging out with her sister, who still lives in Wyoming. She also had fun meeting Michigan sports stars at a golf outing hosted by the PohlCat Golf Course in Mt. Pleasant in June, which benefited the YAC.
Barberi Law plans to continue the Bikes for Kids program in the summer of 2018. Nominations will be accepted again in May 2018.
“We are so proud of all the kind, giving children we have met this summer,” attorney Joe Barberi said. “We are blessed to have such amazing young people set an example of what community is all about. We can’t wait to give away more bikes next summer.”