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  • Thursday, October 30, 2014

    Man Who Inspires Others Gets Big Surprise

    Heroes come in all sizes and guises. Sometimes they wear a cape and save Metropolis. Sometimes they carry a rifle and serve their country.

    Ken Parks rides in a wheelchair and inspires those around him.

    His effect on people was evident on Sunday, August 24 when a crowd of friends and relatives turned out at John W. Dill American Legion Post 434 in Brocton.

     The Post holds an annual Lawnmower Run to raise money for its Scholarship Fund, and Sons of the American Legion member Parks is usually the “go-to” man on the event’s organizing committee. He is instrumental in getting the event together, but this year he was unable to participate, sidelined by medical issues.

    Ken Parks

    Ken Parks with Steve and Jean Milliman.

    His good friends, Steve and Jean Milliman, took the reins and volunteered to organize the event in his stead. At the first meeting of the committee, the group decided by overwhelming consensus to make this year’s Lawnmower Run a benefit for Ken Parks himself, and to surprise their friend with the honor.

    Since an operation on his back in March of this year, Ken has been fighting a severe infection that has left him either hospitalized or homebound for months. Unable to work, Ken and his wife Diane have been faced with mounting expenses as they deal with his health issues.

    And that is why, on the day of this year’s Lawn Tractor Run, Ken and Diane arrived at the Legion just in time to see the parade of 87 assorted yard vehicles finish the 3-mile, 4-stop journey through the Village of Brocton and Town of Portland. Hundreds of friends and relatives were there to encourage Ken and give their best wishes.

    “We would like to take this opportunity to tell everyone how grateful and humbled we are with the efforts and generosity our friends and relatives,” Ken and his wife Diane said in a statement after the event. “The lawnmower run, silent auction, Chinese auction and raffle hosted by Brocton’s John W. Dill American Legion Post 434 were amazing. It has been said that if it takes more than the fingers on one hand to count your true friends you are blessed. We know we have been blessed many times over. The friends and relatives who supported us on August 24 were overwhelming. Words cannot express the emotions we had on that day.”

    Parks is a fighter whose strength is notorious. After marrying in July 1979, Ken and Diane faced a life full of promise.

    They started their family in 1980 and bought their home in Fredonia. Then, three months after their daughter was born, Ken had a catastrophic motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He refused to give up, though, and went on to spend years working to earn a living for his family when his health would permit. He was on the US Paralympics weightlifting team, and competed in England. He received a silver medal and participated in the National Wheelchair Olympics, where he still holds a national bench press record of 352.5 pounds.

    So don’t count Ken Parks out.

    He has touched many lives. He has made friends within his Legion “family” and beyond. Parks’ friends certainly believe in him, which is why the Millimans were so willing to bring everyone together for a day to celebrate Ken Parks and give back to the man who has given so much of himself over the years.

    Diane and Ken Parks wanted to thank their friends publicly for the outpouring of love.

    “Thank you to Steve and Jean Milliman for all of their hard work, time and donations,” they said in a statement. “Thank you to the John W. Dill American Legion Post 434 family in Brocton for their help and facilities. Thank you for everyone that donated time, gifts, and money to make the benefit such a success. Most of all thank you to all of our friends and relatives that shared that special day with us.”

     – by Henry Link, Post 434, Brockton