Easter Seals poster child at center of turkey dinner

April 03, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Looking dapper in a dress shirt, tie and shiny black shoes, Jake Watson, 6, chatted easily with a visitor Saturday at the 47th annual Turkey 'n' Stuff dinner.

Jake wasn't able to eat much of the traditional turkey dinner because, like many 6-year-olds, he is missing too many teeth. But, he reported, "I ate a cupcake. I only had the icing."

The Sabillasville (Md.) Elementary School kindergartner said that he likes school "because you learn a lot."

When the family was finished eating, Jake's father put him into his blue wheelchair with "JAKE" emblazoned on the seat back, and he wheeled himself around while small lights on the front wheels of the chair flashed.


"The lights go with his personality," said his mother, Amy Watson. "It takes a lot more than (paralyzed) legs to slow Jake down."

Jake is the poster child for the Waynesboro chapter of Easter Seals; posters with his photo on them, used to publicize the dinner, hung all around the Waynesboro Area Senior High School cafeteria.

"Look! I'm all over the place!" he pointed out to his family.

Born with spina bifida, Jake is completely paralyzed from the knees down, and partially paralyzed from the hips down. He uses full leg braces and crutches to walk, and also has a shunt in his head.

"It's right back here," he said, touching a scar in his closely-cropped hair. He has endured 13 major surgeries, his mother said.

Jake receives weekly physical and occupation therapy at Eater Seals, working especially on strengthening his trunk muscles to make up for his weaker leg muscles. He can do 24 sit-ups without assistance. One of his goals is to be as strong as the Power Rangers.

Jake's father, Army LTC Kirby Watson, is based at Naval District Washington.

The family, which also includes McKenzie, 11 and Samantha, 9, moved to the area last summer.

"Jake wouldn't be who he is without his sisters," Amy Watson said.

Rick Boyer, Rotary Club member and Jake's Easter Seal physical therapist, said that the 6-year-old is "a peach. And he's a hard worker, too."

In his 34th year of volunteering at the dinner, Boyer directed volunteers as they carried loaded plates to diners.

"The whole community gets involved," he said. "We have 225 to 250 volunteers of all ages. It takes that many."

The group was prepared to feed turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, sauerkraut and cake to 2,000 people.

"You can't get a better meal than that for $5," Boyer said.

The kitchen crew started at 6 a.m. to heat up 425 pounds of turkey, make gravy and stuffing, and prepare six cases of mashed potatoes, said Mary Rock, a cook at the school. Cakes are brought in by volunteers.

John Snyder of Waynesboro has been helping with the dinner for 32 years, and Peg Bigelow of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., has volunteered for 38 years.

"They're our old standbys," Rock said. "They bag bread, do laundry, anything you ask them."

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