The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

"Love Cures" Benefit Brings Hugs "Pullen" Together for Rick Raises $5,000 Sunday

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

It was an awesome sight on the old Oquawka school grounds Sunday, to see a community coming together for a neighbor and friend like Rick Pullen, 52 of Oquawka, who in the past month was diagnosed with colon cancer.

The Pullen family was still adjusting to the recent news that cancer was found in Rick's gallbladder, his colon, and a few spots on the liver, when Todd Miller knocked on the door and said he was making plans for a benefit for Rick and the family to help with their expenses.

"I've known the Pullens for years," Todd said. "They are very community minded, good people," "I'm retired and have the time, when most people are working, so I called the family and told them what I wanted to do," said the former Illinois State Trooper now in the race for Sheriff.

The Pullens appreciated the gesture and Miller got busy with the many volunteers around Oquawka who were more than willing to help Rick and his family. Rick has worked at the Oquawka Diner at the Mississippi riverfront since he was 14 and is now the chief cook. His wife Penny works at Winegards in Burlington, Iowa, and their two children are in college this fall. Jessica, 22 is a senior at Monmouth College majoring in Education and Michael who just graduated from West Central will be a Freshman at S.C.C. in West Burlington, IA.

Rick just hadn't felt well and indigestion turned out to be more than he expected. His liver enzymes were high and he was sent to the hospital in Peoria where they thought they were going to take his gallbladder out, but in surgery doctors found cancer and the gallbladder was left in tact for now.

Rick and Penny feel really good about Dr. Francois Geoffroy, IL Cancer Center, Peoria who spent over an hour talking over the diagnoses and his plan for Rick in fighting the disease. Rick wanted to know if it was going to help or just make waves, but Dr. Geoffroy said, though cancer can't be cured he believes he can get this under control. He feels with aggressive action using chemotherapy, they can shrink the tumors and remove them, and the gallbladder. The good news, Rick said, in that the tumors are not on the side of the Pancreas.

The doctor has already surgically put in a small block where a wire was put in near his shoulder blade into a main artery and into the heart. He said the wire was then pulled out and a tube remains. This block is where the chemo will be given each time.

Rick and wife Penny have a lot of confidence in Dr. Geoffroy who travels from Peoria's Illinois Cancer Center to Monmouth Community Hospital. This past Tuesday, Rick's birthday June 29, he began 6 to 8 weeks of chemotherapy every two weeks.

Sister-in-law Susan and her husband Jeff Pullen, agree it is actually the best gift you can get when you have cancer. "It gives him a chance with the disease many don't have," Susan said.

Keeping spirits high is an important part of controlling a disease and is the reason that the community volunteers came up with the name "Love Cures" for their benefit.

The event began with a car show. The idea was a dollar a vote with the top three cars receiving gift certificates donated by merchants.

Volunteers were enthusiastic Sunday morning in spite of the rain. They decided to go ahead and set up the grounds and by the time the track field was lined with 44 entries, the weather had cleared and the sun was shining.

"God was watching over," one family member said, and Todd Miller had a many volunteers scattered about with bright yellow t-shirts that said "LOVE CURES" on the front and "THINK OF RICK" on the back.

There was music, food and beverage, and lots and lots of love flowing as people with heavy hearts pulled out their cash, thinking of Rick.

Soon the 50/50 drawing was announced which brought $632. The winner was Nancy Bundy who quickly donated back her half ($316).

Show cars, cycles and Sprint cars, mini Sprints, 44 to be exact, all competing for the best of show to raise the most money for Rick. Anyone could vote as many times as they wanted by placing money in the bucket set in front of their favorite entry, $1 a vote.

Jeff and Susan said the family hope and pray for Rick and added there are lot of churches with members who are praying. They even have friends from other churches as far as Florida praying.

"Pastor Jeff Robbins has it on his website and the United Methodist Churches he is in charge of in Oquawka, Biggsville and Gladstone are praying.

"It's exciting and awesome to see our community pull together for one member of the community," Jeff said.

Besides Jeff, Rick has a brother Scott in Oquawka, and Lawrence married to Michelle in the Biggsville-Stronghurst area, and two sisters in Oquawka, Lori, and Cheryl who is married to Norris Crooks, and parents Joyce and the late Jesse Pullen.

"Rick came for twenty minutes and ended up staying for an hour. He met all his old racing buddies (his favorite past-time). Doug Wall of Galesburg brought his little mini sprints to show. He had passed a hat at Avon race track and raised $230 for Rick's benefit.

Jeff smiled when he said Rick was chair-chief for the pit crew at John Peterson's garage where the Pit crew gather almost nightly. When Rick gets off work at the Diner he goes to the garage and "helps" the pit crew. He stays until Penny calls him home for supper and usually it is 1-1/2 to 2 hours later when he shows up. "Thank God for microwaves."

Rick's favorite color is red, so "Think of Rick-Love Cures" bracelets $4. and shirts $10 are being sold.

At 3:00 p.m., the Millers counted the money and declared winners of the show to be #1 Tyler Pullen raising $411 with his '87 Grand National; #2 John Peterson (owner) & son-in-law Justin Parrish (driver) raising $238 with his Sprint Car; and Cheryl Lain raising $221 with her 2003 Mustang.

All three winners graciously gave their prizes to the Rick Pullen family, including 4 rib-eye dinners from the Village Hub, catfish dinners from the Oquawka Eagle Club, and 2 sub-sandwiches from the LD Bonfire Grille, Oquawka.

At the end of the day, over $5,000 was raised to help with the expenses while Rick is off from work.

But the gang was not through yet. The Sprint cars were fired up and all the other vehicles in the show followed by two fire trucks for a parade past the Rick Pullen home. Rick and his family had been encouraged out on his front porch by brother Jeff and other relatives.

As all the noisey sprint cars, race cars, trucks and motorcycles went by, Rick smiled and waved at his friends.

Then a slew of organizers and friends filled his yard, each standing in line to give him a hug and their best wishes of love and hopes for a cure.

"I loved it! "Rick said, "but I wish I were on the giving end, rather than the receiving. It's harder this way, but it was beautiful."

After talking about the tumor and procedures he is going through, he said, "I can't imagine people going through this. I just feel so sorry for people who have gone through it. You just don't know until you are there."

Rick and Penny also commented on the good help at the hospitals and with all the great nurses. But then he added: "I am anxious to be through it all, so I can go back to the races, and watch the boys be boys."

If a hug a day could cure what ills us, Rick Pullen would be free of cancer today. Community members piled out of their vehicles Sunday to line-up across his front yard and each to give him a hug and let him know they are thinking of him, and that he is in their thoughts and prayers. The group had just ended a car show benefit at the Oquawka track and field and then paraded in front of his house while he and his family sat on the front porch.

The show brought in around $5,000 to aid the family while Rick is off work. A second benefit is planned for July 25 with an auction at the Oquawka Eagles Club. Breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at noon, auction at 2 p.m. including a slave auction, 50/50 raffle, dunk tank, and live music. Todd Miller, who headed up the benefit said, "Think of Rick" and come help us make this benefit a success." They are selling "Love Cures"-"Think of Rick" arm bands and T-shirts in his favorite color of red. Rick is head cook at Oquawka Diner where he has worked since he was 14. He's an avid race fan and community backer.

From left wife Penny Pullen children Mike and Jessica with dad

Getting ready to parade by Rick Pullen's house wearing their bright yellow "Love Cures" and "Think of Rick" T-shirts are the many Oquawka organizers of the first Rick Pullen Benefit held Sunday.

Best of Show winners are #1 Tyler Pullen (right) raising $411 with his '87 Grand National; #2 John Peterson, owner and son-in-law Justin Parrish,driver (center) raising $238 with his Sprint Car; and Cheryl Lain (left) raising $221 with her 2003 Mustang.

All three winners gave their prizes to the Rick Pullen family as did Nancy Bundy who won $316 from the 50/50 drawing.