Keaton Mater, 12, Named First Winner in 2018 Bikes for Kids Program
Imagine starting your summer vacation with what you thought was a trip to your mom’s doctor’s appointment. On the way, you stop at Meijer in Mt. Pleasant to get a cold drink, but you end up leaving the store with much more than a refreshment. Keaton Mater, 12, of Roscommon, experienced this scenario when he found out he won a new bike from Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Mater’s parents, Roger and Cheryl, wanted to surprise him, so they didn’t tell him ahead of time that he was selected. A huge smile spread across Mater’s face when he was told he could pick any bike he wanted. He explained how he felt after learning the news.
“I felt excited,” Mater said. “I felt great. I knew nothing about it. I’ve always wanted a new bike.”
Cheryl found out about the Bikes for Kids program on the 9&10 News website. She was “ecstatic” when she got the call that her nomination helped Mater win the bike, plus a helmet and lock donated by Meijer.
“Keaton is 12 and autistic,” she wrote in her nomination. “Keaton spends his life trying to educate his peers on why he is different. He, like all children his age, has encountered bullies and has been bullied himself, but he deals with it by smiling and trying to befriend them. He is an outstanding young man, and his smile and laugh are contagious.”
Cheryl echoed her statements at Meijer when Mater found out why he was chosen to win the bike. He talked about how his mom’s words made him feel.
“I felt glad,” Mater said. “It’s something you don’t hear from a mother every day. I know that she loves me so much.”
Mater, who will be in seventh grade this fall, explained how he talks to others about autism.
“Autism is a special power that I have,” he said. “I’m lucky to have it. Not many kids can say that.”
He also talked about how he handles those who bully him.
“I try to calm them down,” Mater said. “I’m different, but kind of the same. Different is always better, no matter who you are.”
Mater is looking forward to spending the summer riding his new bike with his dad at Kirtland Community College, which is near their house. He also loves to play basketball with his dad, and play in the water with his dog, Sadie.
Mason Eisenberger, 9, Wins Second Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
For Mason Eisenberger, 9, being kind isn’t really something he has to think about. His Shepherd Elementary teacher, Annette Sponseller, thought his attitude and behavior deserved recognition. Sponseller nominated Eisenberger to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“Mason exhibits outstanding citizenship on a daily basis,” Sponseller wrote in her nomination. “He treats everyone the same and goes above and beyond to make others around him feel like they belong. We have had a new student in our classroom this year that has had a hard time fitting in. Mason has gone out of his way numerous times to help this child fit in. One day we were in the library and the new student was sitting over at a table by himself, while all of the other boys were sitting across the library at a table. I walked over to the group of boys, pointed at the other student, and within 30 seconds, Mason had gotten up and went and sat with him. Before long, all the boys had gotten up and followed. A true leader!”
Eisenberger was really excited and happy to find out his teacher nominated him to win the bike, helmet and lock at Meijer in Mt. Pleasant. He talked about why he thought it was important to help others.
“It’s just something I do,” he said. “I do it to make them not feel lonely.”
Eisenberger is looking forward to riding his new bike, when he isn’t playing baseball. He is on two teams in Shepherd. One is a traveling team, the Salt River Bandits, and he plays catcher and second base. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, football, basketball and soccer.
“I have never won anything like this before,” he said. “Being nice pays off.”
Eisenberger’s mom, Jenna, his sister, and grandparents came to help him pick out his bike. They were moved by his teacher’s kind words.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Jenna, said. “He makes me proud. It always makes you happy when others recognize him. It’s pretty awesome that Mrs. Sponseller nominated him.”
Nyilee Smith, 10, Wins Third Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Nyilee Smith, 10, of Williamsburg, couldn’t stop smiling on her first trip to Mt. Pleasant. She didn’t mind the long drive, since her destination was Meijer to pick out the new bike she won as part of Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Smith had no idea she was nominated by her mom, Candace Jaruzel, to win the bike, helmet and lock. Smith was excited about the surprise and said her mom’s nomination made her feel good.
“She has a big heart and loves to help others in need,” Jaruzel wrote in her nomination. “She lost her grandma around a year ago, and in honor of her grandma, she volunteered at Meals on Wheels and helped deliver meals to people. She works very hard in school and gets good grades. She helps me around the house and with her little sister. We lost her dad three years ago, and I am a single mom and couldn’t ask for a better daughter. She has a huge heart and has been through a lot in life, but always has a smile on her face, and is always there to help others in need.”
Smith said thinking of and helping others just comes naturally to her.
“It’s a very good feeling when you do it, and it’s really fun,” she said. “I like to help because it will make their day better and make them feel good.”
Volunteering for Meals on Wheels made Smith feel good about herself, too. When she gets her driver’s license, she plans to deliver the meals all by herself.
“It was cool,” Smith said. “When I gave the meals to them, they all got smiles on their faces.”
She will be a fifth grader at Cherry Knoll Elementary in Traverse City. She loves learning about history, and also loves sports. She has run track and has played volleyball, soccer and tennis. Her family lives near the bike trails in Traverse City, so they also enjoy going on bike rides.
Jaruzel shared how she felt when she found out her daughter was chosen as a Bikes for Kids winner.
“I was excited for her,” Jaruzel said. “This is her first bike she’s actually gotten to pick out. All the others were hand-me-downs.”
Trinity Lachance, 8, Wins Fourth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
It’s not every day that you see a girl riding a bike around inside Meijer. That’s exactly what Trinity Lachance, 8, of Roscommon, did after she picked out the new bike she won through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
Maureen Verbruggen, Lachance’s grandma, nominated her to win the bike, helmet and lock.
“After two years of being bullied, Trinity decided that she didn’t want anyone to feel like she did,” Verbruggen wrote in her nomination. “Last summer, Trinity raised $600 to put in a Buddy Bench at her school to stop bullying. She is also a Girl Scout and does things for her community. She also made survivor kits for her local fire department and Roscommon police department.”
Lachance was pretty happy when she found out her grandma nominated her to win a bike. Her mom, Kathy Verbruggen, told her the good news.
“I was excited when I found out,” she said. “My mom was trying to keep it a secret.”
After another girl bullied her, Lachance decided to raise money for the Buddy Bench. She and her mom spent a lot of time collecting and returning cans and bottles to gather the $600 they needed. The bench is a way to make everyone feel included and make new friends.
Lachance shared why she thinks it is important to help others.
“I like how good it feels inside,” she said. “Warm and tingly, like warm fuzzies. If you don’t help others, they might be mean to you. But if you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you.”
She attends Grayling Elementary School’s Extended Learning Year program, which adds 10 additional learning days to the traditional school year. She finished school the last week of June, and she starts fourth grade in mid-August. She likes recess, math and reading the most. In her free time, she plays on her tablet, jump ropes, swims and rides her bike.
Lachance is deciding what project she wants to raise money for next. She thinks it might be something to do with animal shelters. Her mom is proud of all of her efforts.
“I was happy because she’s getting recognized for the good things she has done,” Kathy said.
Anna Mozurkewich, 12, Wins Fifth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
The day wasn’t going well for Anna Mozurkewich, 12, of Mt. Pleasant, but some surprising news from her mom definitely turned her mood around. Her mom, Nicole, told Mozurkewich she was chosen to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“I was really very excited,” Mozurkewich said. “It was almost like I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know I was entered, then she told me I won.”
Nicole nominated Mozurkewich for her kindness and willingness to help others.
“Anna spent her school year making a difference in a peer-to-peer class with special needs kids by playing games and participating in activities with them,” Nicole wrote in her nomination. “She went to the skating rink with this class and enjoyed skating with and teaching her special needs peers. During the Miles for Miracles event at school, one special needs friend didn’t have a T-shirt for all the kids to get signed by each other. Anna purchased the gal a shirt, using her own money, so she could participate in getting signatures.”
Mozurkewich talked about how hearing what the nomination said made her feel.
“It makes me really thankful that she would say these things about me,” she said. “It made me really happy she would do that for me.”
If you help other people, Mozurkewich said, they will always know there is someone there for them.
“I don’t really like seeing people when they’re not happy,” she said. “Seeing people mad and sad isn’t fun for me. When they’re happy, that makes me happy.”
When it comes to offering advice on why she thinks it’s important to help others, Mozurkewich is very clear on what she believes is the biggest benefit.
“When you help people, it not only helps them, it makes you feel good about yourself,” she said.
Along with the bike from Barberi Law, Mozurkewich also won a helmet and lock donated by Meijer. Nicole talked about how she felt after learning her daughter won.
“I was very proud of her,” Nicole said. “She is definitely a giver. It was nice to see the smile on her face when I told her.”
Language Arts is Mozurkewich’s favorite subject at Mt. Pleasant Middle School, where she will be in eighth grade, and she loves to read. Besides reading, she likes to ice skate, watch TV, swim with her grandma, camp and fish.
Aliyah Screws, 8, Wins Sixth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
A totally unexpected surprise for Aliyah Screws, 8, of Shepherd, led to some careful planning leading up to the big day. Screws had no idea her teacher nominated her to win a new bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. When she found out she won, though, she started getting ready.
“I was so amazed and so glad my teacher nominated me,” Screws said. “It was like, whoa, I never expected this!”
The first thing she did after finding out was go to her room and get a letter her teacher had written her during the school year. She was going to use the return address to write her teacher a thank you note. Screws was so happy to hear why she was nominated.
“I have had the pleasure of having Aliyah in third grade this year,” Peggy Dickman wrote in her nomination. “She is one of those quiet leaders who always sets good examples for other children around her even when other kids make that hard to do. She is kind and considerate to all children, and always makes wise choices leading the way for others to follow. Kids on the playground have even gone to Aliyah to see if she can help solve friend issues when they need a neutral party. Aliyah always works hard and is quick and eager to help in any way possible. She will continue to be a good leader of her peers.”
Leading up to the day she got to pick out her new bike, Aliyah planned her outfit for the occasion. She didn’t want to wear a dress because that would be hard to test a bike out in, so she chose some plaid shorts and a pink, orange and white shirt to match. She also wore some light makeup and painted her nails for the big day.
Screws said it makes her happy to help other people and she enjoys the good feelings that come from putting others first.
“If you’re just helping yourself, the world might not be a better place,” she said. “If you do something good for them, they might pass it on.
She enjoys helping in the nursery at church, as well.
“I get to do all of my favorite things, like play with kids, and I’m helping them (the adults), so they don’t have to work so hard.”
Tammy, Aliyah’s mom, said she wasn’t surprised by Dickman’s kind words about her daughter because Dickman had shared her feelings about Screws in the past. Screws wrote a poem about Dickman, and she had called Tammy to tell her how much the poem meant to her. However, Tammy was surprised about the nomination and that Screws won a bike, along with a helmet and lock donated by Meijer.
“I was so grateful our middle child was being blessed,” Tammy said.
Screws will be in fourth grade at Shepherd Elementary. She loves to read, draw and play Barbies with her mom.
Dakota Perkins, 14, Wins Seventh Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Even though he told his grandma not to do it, Dakota Perkins, 14, wasn’t surprised she went ahead and nominated him to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. However, he didn’t really believe her when she woke him up one morning and told him he won.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Perkins said. “I kind of wish someone else could have won, but I was happy. Whatever my grandma can do for me, she does.”
His grandma, Donna Paull, felt Perkins deserved some recognition for all of the selfless things he does. She said he never will take money for anything he helps with, so she tries to pay him back in other ways.
“I recently broke my arm, and Dakota came to our house and made chili, stew, cookies and other things to put in the freezer for my husband to thaw out,” Paull wrote in her nomination. “He cleaned my house, did dishes, laundry and changed our bed. He is always wanting to help someone. Dakota is 14 years old, and just recently lost his dad to cancer, watching him die slowly for four months. He never complained.”
A simple thank you is more motivation than anything, Perkins said, about why he thinks you should help other people. He doesn’t expect any more than that, and enjoys the warm feeling he gets inside, knowing that he helped someone.
“Getting the job done is your gift in return,” he said. “My dad always taught me to do things without expecting anything. I just want them to be able to live in the moment, and not worry or stress about getting things done.”
Perkins said it’s important to let others know that someone else is there for them, since a lot of people feel like they’re alone and have no one to support them.
“I think it’s important to help others because there is not enough kindness in the world,” he said. “I’m just one of those odd ducks that likes helping.”
Paull brought Perkins to Meijer in Mt. Pleasant, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from his home in Hawks, Michigan, to pick out his bike, helmet and lock. She said she never minds doing whatever she can to support her grandson.
“I’m so proud of him, I always am,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was really shocked when I got the call.”
Perkins will be in ninth grade at Rogers City Area Schools. He enjoys building birdhouses, riding four-wheelers, going in the woods with his grandpa and working on cars. His favorite subjects in school are social studies and science.
Skyler Wilson, 16, Wins Eighth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Switching to a smaller school has brought positive things to Skyler Wilson, 16, of Kewadin, including winning a new bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program. Wilson was surprised she was nominated by one of her teachers at Sunrise Academy in Elk Rapids.
“I didn’t sign up for anything, so I didn’t know why I won,” Wilson said.
Kathy Moody-Breece, one of Wilson’s teachers, mentioned many reasons why she felt Wilson was deserving of the bike, helmet and lock.
“Skyler has demonstrated great service to the Elk Rapids community and beyond,” Moody-Breece wrote in her nomination. “She organized a fundraising team for Relay for Life and raised close to $1,000 in donations. Skyler has also volunteered for the Elk Rapids Garden Club, Noble Pines, Little League softball and the Homeless Outreach program. She strives to set a great example for others, especially her nephew, whom she loves dearly. I believe Skyler is deserving of this recognition, as I have witnessed her struggle with personal and academic challenges, and through it all, she still has the vision to make others’ lives better.”
After she heard what was written in her nomination, Wilson got choked up and said she was about to cry. She said the satisfaction she gets is her biggest motivation for helping others.
“Once you have struggled yourself, you know what it feels like to have someone help you,” Wilson said. “So, I like to help others and give them that same feeling.”
There is enough bad in the world, she said, that she wants to make sure she is helping do something good.
“Because what goes around, comes around,” Wilson said. “Karma’s one heck of a thing.”
Her mom, Jessica, feels Wilson has benefited greatly from going to a smaller school, instead of getting lost in the shuffle at a bigger school.
“I’m so very proud,” Jessica said. “She’s so deserving. I’m glad that somebody notices the work she does and the big heart she has.”
When she isn’t working at the Cone Corral & Pizzeria in Elk Rapids, Wilson enjoys art. She loves to draw, sketch and do spray paint art. She also loves spending time with her nephew, Ricky, who is 2 years old. She will be in 11th grade at Sunrise Academy in the fall, where she participates in softball and cheerleading.
Emily Heffner, 14, Wins Ninth Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Helping her community and family is something Emily Heffner, 14, of Gaylord, does naturally. Her grandma wanted to recognize all of Heffner’s hard work, so she nominated her to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
“I was a little confused because I didn’t know she had nominated me,” Heffner said, after learning she won a new bike, helmet and lock. “But, I was excited.”
Mary Evans, Heffner’s grandma, said Heffner was out mowing her lawn when she decided to nominate her for the bike.
“She has volunteered several years at Toys for Tots and Coats for Kids,” Evans wrote in her nomination. “She has helped with judging at the county fair, and has also worked in the fair kitchen, which raises money for the fair and the Disciples of St. Mary. She made doll blankets to be given out to girls receiving a doll from Toys for Tots. She also made 30 pairs of mittens from wool sweaters that were given out to kids receiving Coats for Kids. Emily is an all A student and plays sports. She also helps her family with gardening, lawn mowing and cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. An all-around great teenager!”
Heffner said it’s nice to know her grandparents appreciate what she does for them.
“I already know that, but it’s nice that she put it in writing,” Heffner said, after hearing what Evans wrote.
Volunteering for Toys for Tots is Heffner’s favorite thing. She said she is always lucky at Christmastime, so she wants to pass that feeling on to other kids.
“You can picture the kids’ faces when they get their presents,” Heffner said.
According to Heffner, helping others is important because you never know when you might need some help yourself.
“It just comes back around to treat others how you would want to be treated,” she said.
Even though it’s nice to be recognized for her work, Heffner has another reason for helping others.
“It’s always a good feeling because you know someone’s going to get a smile out of it,” she said.
Her mom, Marci, was surprised and excited Heffner was given a new bike.
“Emily’s a great kid, and she deserves it,” Marci said. “She’s the whole package.”
Heffner will be in ninth grade at Gaylord High School. She loves playing sports, especially softball, camping and being outdoors. English is her favorite subject because she likes writing, and she likes gym a lot.
Kolby George, 13, Wins 10th Bike in Bikes for Kids Program
Winning something for the first time filled Kolby George, 13, of Cadillac, with a mix of nervousness and excitement. He couldn’t disguise his happiness when he found out he was chosen to win a bike through Barberi Law’s Bikes for Kids program.
His mom, Lora Duncan, nominated George for the honor, which also included a helmet and lock donated by Meijer in Mt. Pleasant.
“Kolby has a soft, kind heart,” Duncan wrote in her nomination. “All his teachers in school said he was the first to help another student or the teacher. He also started to volunteer at the nursing home, Samaritas, where I work when he turned 10. He will help me and my co-workers dust, vacuum, clear dishes away or wash tables. He also reads and plays games with the residents. Kolby helps with parties, pushes residents in wheelchairs to activities and cleans up after parties. Kolby is the first to try to brighten a day with a kind word or smile. He also loves animals, and wants to one day volunteer at the animal shelter. He is an amazing 13-year-old boy.”
Duncan’s boss, Deborah Delosa, also wrote a nomination for George. She talked about how the residents love George and said he makes a difference in their days.
George had no idea what his mom and Delosa wrote about him.
“It makes me feel really good,” he said, after hearing their words.
The residents at Samaritas are George’s favorite part of helping out there.
“I like to play games with them, especially checkers,” he said.
He also enjoys seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces when he visits the facility, and explained why he thinks it’s important to help others.
“Because a lot of people don’t have visitors and a lot of people need help,” George said. “A lot of times if you do something good, something will come back in return.”
For the past two weeks, George has volunteered at Samaritas from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. He helped take care of residents and with activities. He helps whenever he can during the summer, and when he is going to school, he helps on the weekends mostly.
Duncan shared her feelings about finding out George was picked to win the bike.
“I was really excited and very proud,” she said. “He gets to see how proud I am of him, and how proud his co-workers and the residents are, as well.”
George will be an eighth grader at Cadillac Junior High. He enjoys watching TV, playing games, walking his dog and sports. He likes math, even though he says he’s not the best at it, but he really likes his teacher. He also likes gym, language arts and science.