Complete with a sweet smile and a grateful outstretched hand, Maci Winebarger didn’t miss an opportunity to greet everyone at the Cruise-In that was scheduled just for her.
On Saturday, April 14, Wheels 4 Kids, founded by Rick Dudding, hosted a second Benefit Cruise-In for Maci Winebarger, a young 12-year old girl who has been battling a brain tumor since she was six.
Rick Dudding, a survivor of brain and body injuries from being hit by a drunk driver twenty-four years ago, has much compassion for others who suffer, especially children. “When I heard about little Maci, I knew I had to try to do something to help. I didn’t raise as much as I wanted at the other benefit we did last year,” Dudding shared. “I know what you go through with doctors and tests and disappointments and I want to help.”
Dudding found a free venue for the benefit at Tractor Supply in Covington, Virginia. “This way, everything we make goes to Maci,” he said. “Also, several other cruise-ins clubs used the facility and said they would participate.”
Jason Crawford, Darren Frango and Dudding’s family helped Rick throughout the day to make it a success. “I bring the cars in and my mom, sister and daughter do the rest,” Dudding said with a smile. Cole, Maci’s ten-year-old brother, was a great help in selling the 50/50 tickets. “I enjoyed helping out and seeing all the cars too,” he said.
Most of Craig knows Maci, and her seven-year battle with the results of a tumor found at the base of her brain stem. After surgery she became wheelchair bound, needing total assistance.
The good news is that Maci recently started walking with a cane. “She has to have human assistance, due to balance issues but she is getting closer,” her mother Shari said. “She’s had two 3-week intensive therapy programs since November in Richmond at Hope Therapy where she does three hours of PT five days a week. It’s a grueling program, but we are very impressed with her progress.”
Also, amidst all the doctors and therapies, Maci will be going to Camp Easter Seals and Victory Junction this summer.
The vehicles at the Cruise-In were top in their class and added flair to the atmosphere with their roaring engines and glistening colors. There seemed to be a sweetness of the camaraderie amongst everyone making sure Maci had a good time. Many made sure to give her words of encouragement.
Not as many people showed as anticipated due to another ‘benefit’ Cruise-In taking place the night before. Several clubs and owners got confused, thinking Rick’s benefit was Friday.
“It’s clear to me how God works through the hands of neighbors and friends,” Maci’s dad, Jerry shared. “We were able to meet new people who inspired us and overwhelmed us with their love and kindness.”
Vehicle owners came from Craig, Buchanan, Covington, Roanoke, Hot Springs and West Virginia. Maci’s favorite was the 60s Dragster, with a roaring 454 engine in it.
Doug Trout said that he bought it 33-years ago and took it to many local drag strips. “People beg for this thing,” he said with a big grin. Before he left, he gave Maci, her brother and everyone a sample of its power.
The D.J. from Catawba, Donald Wood of Purple Butterfly Entertainment, made the day very enjoyable and Maci shared some of her favorites with him to play. “I enjoyed spending time with Maci and her family,” Wood shared.
“Donald did a great job,” Rick exclaimed. “I couldn’t find a DJ, so a friend contacted him. He called and offered to do it for free, and I am really grateful!”
“I was more than happy to help,” Wood said. “Anything to do with cancer or kids…count me in.” Donald can be reached at (540) 309-7534 or on Facebook for weddings, parties, karaoke and more.
When things were auctioned off that Maci liked, she would raise her hand to bid. One gentleman bought a basket of goodies and gave it to her. His heart seemed to melt as Maci extended her warm smile.
Another older gentleman drove up to the tent where Maci sat. It was obvious he was in pain as he slowly got out of his truck. He handed Maci a hundred-dollar bill and said he was going to pray for her. “You could tell he was in a lot of pain himself,” Maci’s mom said. “That was so moving.”
Rick said he was grateful to all those who donated items to be sold. Among them include: Betty Dudding, Jennifer Cole, Michelle Songer, Karen Brickey, Pam Dudding Daniela Hannah and her daughter Christine.
Businesses that donated include; Craig County Library, Tractor Supply Covington, Anchor Sales, Mr. Tire Salem, Auto Zone (Covington, Salem, Melrose, Lewisburg WV), O’Reilly’s Salem, NAPA Clifton Forge, Advance Auto (Williamson Rd, Lewisburg WV), Lowes Salem, Hardees Lewisburg, Lewisburg Ford, Federated Covington, Cucci’s Covington, DQ Clifton Forge, Pizza Hut Clifton Forge, Fisher Federated Auto, Big Dawg Bargains Pembroke, O’Reilly’s (Salem, Williamson Rd) and Safelite Glass.
“We appreciate Rick, his family and friends who came out and worked so hard to help our daughter out,” Maci’s parents shared. “We know you guys put in long hours to pull this off.”
Maci had four words for everyone before the event concluded: “Thank you everyone for coming out.” Over $1.100 was ultimately raised.