TEAM DUSTIN gets $110,000
“At this moment Dustin is cancer-free,” grandfather John Shoemake told the crowd, drawing applause, cheers and more than a few tears.
Dustin, who has spent onethird of his young life being treated for stage four neuroblastoma— a particularly insidious form of cancer—still has a long way to go.
But if support counts, and it does with the Pickel-Shoemake family, Sunday’s turnout was a milestone. It ranks among the largest in the history of the KC Hall, Rockdale’s largest meeting place.
“Our hearts are full,” Shoemake, a former Rockdale mayor said. “This wonderful show of support humbles us. It would be absolutely impossible to name all the people who helped with this event.”
SUPPORT— Gaye Bland, auction organizer for St. John’s United Methodist Church, which sponsored the event, said over 200 items were donated for the four-hour auction, conducted by auctioneer John Fisher.
The event also included a barbecue and silent auction.
Mike Speer of Marquez, a Rockdale native and 1968 RHS graduate, donated two dressed sides of beef in a ticket-selling fund-raiser that netted $28,000, including $22,000 from Leon County where Speer lives, and $6,000 from Milam County.
Bud Boykin and Kevin Walker won the two halves. Walker donated his back to the auction where it was purchased by Mike Burrough.
Miller and Kathie Bassler donated a luxurious Gulf Coast vacation. It was purchased by Dan Sangalie for $7,250.
“That’s just an amazing figure,” Bland said. “Then there was some left over and we sold more tickets, some of the beef left over was donated back to the auction and we sold that.”
Bland said “easily” 1,200 people came through the doors of the KC Hall on Sunday.
HEART—But it wasn’t just the numbers. Sunday’s crowd also had plenty of heart.
“ We had several auction items people purchased and then donated back to the Pickel family,” Bland said. “ That includes a toy tractor which Jan Wiley purchased for $1,375 and then gave it to the family.”
Another noted Rockdale-area woodworker, John Hughes, donated his final wooden glider to the action and it went for $3,100, purchased by Miller and Kathie Bassler.
And a processed steer, donated by Brandon Horn, was purchased for $ 2,000 by Kent Speer, son of Mike Speer who had donated the two sides of processed beef.
THANKS—Walter Pond, a devoted friend of the Shoemake family, served as master of ceremonies and expressed appreciation to the following:
• Chief Ward Roddam and the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department which provided fire truck rides for youngsters.
• The Rockdale Reporter for providing publicity.
• Karen Laughlin for her “talent and hard work in preparing the decorations.”
• Auctioneer John Fisher.
• Grand Knight Jody Darby and Knights of Columbus Council 7014, which provided $3,500 worth of services. “There is just no other place in Rockdale this event could have been held,” Bland said.
• Billie Oney and Margo Gilless “for their generosity” and Alpha Tau Delta, Pi Epsilon and Alpha Beta Delta for baking and selling desserts.
• The Mike Speer family for the steer and processing, all who purchased meal tickets, donated items and those who purchased auction items.
• The Rockdale community, and beyond, for its support.
PERSPECTIVE—Shoemake made some brief remarks and introduced his family.
He referred to daughter, Kelly Pickel—Dustin’s mom—as “the strongest person I’ve ever met.”
Shoemake remarked on the irony of last week’s Reporter front page, which included a story and photos of the Team Dustin benefit along with a story about a woman charged with murder in connection with the death of a two-year-old.
“And here all of you are, trying to save the life of this threeyear old,” he said.