I am always amazed at the diverse group of individuals that gather every two years at the Texas capitol to represent constituencies from all around the state. Each state legislator comes from a different background, education, profession and most importantly, a different district. For three years now, I have been blessed to represent a district from Denton County, one that takes in fast growth suburban communities as well as some of our rural heritage, and a district that many fine citizens of this state call home.
I can’t help but notice a correlation between our community in North Texas and the Texas State Legislature. Just like the Texas State Legislature is made up of a body of uniquely skilled lawmakers, our community has a myriad of talented citizens that are the main contributing factor for this region’s success. In my position, I get to hear the stories of local heroes that live right in our backyards. Today, I want to share with you the uplifting stories of four citizens who have made a difference by acting out the values of self-sacrifice, hard work and determination.
Joyce Jean Welch has contributed significantly to the greater good of her community as the founder of Special Love Ministries. Special Love Ministries is a non-profit organization that hosts monthly social events for adults with special needs from throughout the Lewisville area and for their family members and caregivers. Mrs. Welch was inspired to start the organization while raising her grandson with special needs, Ricky Jones. Wishing that there were more opportunities for education and social interactions for individuals like her grandson, Mrs. Welch took action and started this new program geared toward individuals with physical and mental disabilities who were no longer in school.
Dr. Steve Smalley is another example of a citizen who chose to use his talent to benefit others and the community. Dr. Smalley is a local physician who was treating a 10-year old patient, Christian Fuchs, diagnosed with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Christian’s symptoms require him to be in a costly, specialized wheel chair. Throughout Christian’s doctors visits, Dr. Smalley noticed that his current wheel chair was completely worn out, causing the young ten year old extreme difficulties. In an effort to buy Christian a new wheel chair, Dr. Smalley decided to run the 2010 Cowtown Marathon and created a website where community members could pledge donations for each mile he ran. The proceeds of which went straight to a new wheelchair for Christian.
The heroic acts of citizens in our community is not restricted by age and Andrew Maust is a perfect example of a young heroine. At 12 years of age, Andrew, a Type 1 diabetic, raised almost twenty thousand dollars for diabetes research. He organized a group of supporters called the “A Team” to participate in the Walk to Cure Diabetes sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His achievement was recognized by the Kohl’s Kids Who Care program, which honors young people between the ages of 6 and 18 from across the nation for their community service. Andrew received a one thousand dollar scholarship for his postsecondary education.
Last but not least, Hugh McElroy is a Denton County citizen who volunteered his time and resources to help save the lives of animals suffering from starvation. In August of 2009, seventy-seven Arabian horses suffering from malnutrition and unsanitary conditions were rescued from a ranch in Denton County. After the horses were seized from the ranch, Mr. McElroy dedicated two weeks solely to working with the North Texas Human Society to rehabilitate these animals. His hard work paid off, the horses returned to a healthy weight and are near full recovery.
These citizens saw a need and used their abilities to bring about positive results in our community. I hear stories like this every day and know that many Denton County citizens have followed in the same footsteps of these four individuals. To these four individuals and to everyone else who has strived to better our community, thank you for making Denton County the best place to live, work, play and raise a family.