There is a famous quote that can often be found on social media. It reads, “The most beautiful thing in the world is a child’s smile. The next best thing? Knowing that you are the reason behind it.”
Several years ago, Rick Dudding wanted to help a local child. He did. The next year, he helped another one. The following year, he continued and raised funds to provide nice Christmas gifts for 18 Craig County children in need, something that he has done for the last two years.
On Saturday, July 13, Dudding continued his heartfelt passion and had a Wheels4Kids Summerfest Benefit at the Craig County Fairgrounds.
The goal was to raise funds to help six-year-old Lucas Young who suffers from an optic tumor sitting on a nerve. The condition stole his eyesight, causing him to wear special glasses, use a cane at times and possibly may need a seeing-eye dog in the future.
Brittany, Lucas’ mom, explained that he cannot see at all out of his left eye and very little out of his right. “He has to be directed and is on two different chemo treatments,” she said.
“When I first heard of Lucas’ eyesight loss, I really wanted to help him,” Dudding said. “I decided to have a Wheels4Kids, hoping to raise some money for him.”
The day’s event included a car show with trucks, motorcycles, tractors, 18-wheelers and just about anything with wheels. There was also a swap meet, yard sale, vendors, food and a DJ.
David Givens of “Dave’s Live Sounds” brought in three different groups. New Horizons Gospel Bluegrass started the morning, followed by local teen talent Cole Winebarger. The event concluded with Old South Revival. Several commented on how great the music was.
Dudding obtained two bouncy houses to keep the kids happy. One was from the movie Frozen which had a slide and a basketball net inside and the other a camo truck. Lucas said he really liked the Frozen bouncy.
Betty, Dudding’s mother, set up a 10-foot inflatable unicorn which showered water out of its horn for children to enjoy during the 93-degree hot day. Adults giggled just as much as they walked under it. (Maybe a little faster than the kids though.)
First Baptist Church provided fun games for the kids.
“It took a lot of people donating to make it a good event and I want to thank them all and hope I didn’t leave anyone out,” Dudding said.
He gave a special thanks to the following donors:
- Dave’s Moon Walk Salem (two bouncy houses)
- Donald Wood – Purple Butterfly (emcee)
- David Givens – Dave’s Live Sounds (for provided a great sound system and scheduled live music)
- Linda Calderon (for the use of her ATV for Dudding to get around the large grounds more quickly and easier as he has a serious back injury)
- Angie Guthrie-Ponton of Guthrie Insurance and US Cellular (goody bags with water bottles and items for the entries)
- Jonathan Slusher (for loading and unloading tables, bouncy houses and cleanup) “We could not have done it without you, big guy,” Dudding’s mother said.
- Olivia Dudding Slusher (for helping to market the event and work the day event)
- Betty and Pam Dudding (for the last four months in designing flyers, marketing and prep)
- Jason Crawford (for assisting and donating ice and water)
- Mike Hubbard and Johnny McCormick (for directing cars and helping in cleanup)
- Covington native Nelson Falls (for helping judge vehicles)
- Dawn and Kirsten Hannah (for working Lucas’s yard sale area, helping vendors and staying to the end for cleanup)
- IGA Express (for drinks and water); and
- Craig County Fairground Association (for the use of fairgrounds)
The donors for door prizes were:
- Advance Auto/Melrose and Covington, Auto Zone/Melrose in Salem and Lewisburg (WV), O’Reilley’s/Salem, Auto – Wash bucket with cleaning items
- Advance-Williamson Rd – two seat covers
- Lowes-Salem – Charcoal Grill
- Sports Clips-Salem – five hair cuts
- Gander Outdoors – $25.00 Gift Card
- Napa-Clifton Forge – 26-piece screwdriver set
- Federated Auto Clifton Forge – a Die-Cast Car
- Pizza Hut Clifton Forge – four tickets for pizza
- Tractor Supply Covington – Creeper Seat
- Advance Lewisburg, WV – 47-piece socket set
- Greenbrier Ford WV – Oil Change
- Advance Auto Daleville – Torque wrench
- Auto Zone Covington – Socket Set
- Unique Hair Fashion New Castle – five tanning gift cards
- Cut’n-up Covington – Hair Products Gift bag
- Cucci’s Covington – Pizza Gift Card
- Embellish Hair Salon in Roanoke – two $25.00 gift cards
- On The Edge Hair Salon Roanoke – two $25.00 gift cards
- Splash Country Roanoke – 2-pack gift set
- Pick & Save Salvage – two $125.00 gift cards
- Jennifer Williams Cole – Scentsy Warmer
- Duck Doughnuts – Gift cards – two doz. Doughnuts
- Branch Civil Inc – Keith Boley – Insulated mugs, measuring tapes, frisbees and t-shirts.
“A big thanks for the items donated to raffle,” Dudding said. Star City Power Sport – Adult Racing Helmet (Jay Gallimore won) and Jason Crawford – Stryker Air Rifle (Jerry Pruitt won).
For all the vendors, “Thank you so much! You did a great job,” Dudding added.
The following vendors were present: Shelia Benson -This/That Antiques and Vintage, Nona Edmonds – Amish Breads, George Foster – Farm Bureau, Angie & friends – Face painting, Brittany Young – Lucas t-shirts and drinks, Grace Assembly – Yard sale, First Baptist – Kids games, Jasmine Brown – Thrive and 31, Tina Pierce – Hand Made Jewelry, Amelia Taylor – Yard Sale, Andy/Amber Charette – Kettle Korn, Pine Top – Food, Pam Dudding – Yard Sale and Lucas’ donated items and Dennis White – VFW.
Dudding was elated to have a Gold Sponsor for the event. “When Pinkerton said they would provide the trophies, I was really thrilled!” he said.
As a car show enthusiast, Dudding explained that one does not expect a trophy at any benefit. But Pinkerton provided funds to cover the trophies for all the entries and special winners.
Hart Motors was the Bronze sponsor who provided the money to pay for the medallions for the kid’s Power Wheels. Those entries were Maeleigh and Brayden Slusher. They each received a medallion with the Wheels4Kids logo which made them giggle with excitement. They also got Duck doughnut gift cards and a gift card to Dairy Queen in Salem.
Dudding said he watched Lucas’ face light up when he gave him a kids Power Wheels medallion too.
Dudding also shared that he was disappointed in the low turnout of vehicle entries, however, a major event in Roanoke changed their benefit from June to July 13 which took about 125 entries. Also, many locals attended the air show in Covington on that day.
Still, there were 32 entries. All received a beautiful trophy which had Dudding’s specially designed Wheels4Kids insignia.
Specialty Awards for ‘BEST’ in each category were:
- Chevy – Frank Haerer, Glade Hill
- Ford – Johnny Heck, Eagle Rock
- Mopar – Brent Hypes, New Castle
- Truck – Joe Dudding, Narrows
- Antique – Inman Johnson, New Castle
- Pro-Street – Ken Trout, Christiansburg
- Motorcycle – Jason Sorrells, Troutville
- Low Rider – Michael Hubbard, New Castle
- Street Rod – Kyle Sloss, New Castle
- Tractor – (paper with name misplaced)
Later, Dudding gave Lucas a trophy he had specially made for him.
Dudding and Lucas gave heartfelt thanks to everyone in attendance. “My heart goes out to everyone who helped me to put this event on for Lucas and raise over $1,000,” Dudding said.
Dudding also assisted Lucas’s family the weekend before at another show in Botetourt County. He added that he wished he had the energy Lucas has for what he’s going through.
“He is a firecracker,” Dudding said. “It broke my heart to see how he has been cut on. But he was still wide open in that heat. It really takes your breath away, having to see a little boy like that losing his eyesight and he hasn’t even got his life started yet.”
Olivia Dudding Slusher said the following about her dad, “He has a heart to help others. His passion to see a difference in the lives of children is something that sets him out from most. He will do whatever he needs, regardless of how he feels about situations, people or obstacles that get in his way. He continues to go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of families, especially for children. I truly believe God has a special reward for him and I’m so blessed to call him my daddy.”