It was a warm afternoon in September when a former high school classmate messaged me on Facebook with something truly heartbreaking.
One of her former coworkers was a man by the name of Greg Henderson. Henderson’s infant son, Liam, was shaken at seven months old, which resulted in a severe traumatic brain injury in December of 2011.
Unfortunately, the suspect was not brought to justice, leaving Henderson and his family to pick up the pieces and nurture his son back to health. Doctors told Liam’s father that Liam will never be able to play sports, do activities where he could fall and hit his head, or partake in other activities where his body rapidly accelerates (trampolines, bounce house, etc.).
The Torch has run its Sexiest Truck Competition for two years now. A now deceased young man by the name of Kelby Freeland won the inaugural competition. His family and friends submitted his truck post-mortem, and voters chose Freeland’s truck in a landslide.
Jilly Bickley, a Detroit area native and Michigan State student, submitted a truck that was truly unlike any other. Following the tragedy he faced, Henderson decided to build a half-jeep-half-pick-up truck that he dubbed “Frankenbrute.”
Frankenbrute was to be auctioned off, with the proceeds supporting Greg’s son, Liam Henderson, and his recovery.
Bickley sent in a question, asking whether the Sexiest Truck Competition was Ferris only, or statewide.
When I read Liam’s story and saw the wide range from which the trucks were being submitted, I saw it fit to allow Frankenbrute an entry in the contest.
At first, very few people supported this year’s competition, but with Frankenbrute squeezing into the playoff voting in sixth place, Liam’s truck still faced an uphill battle.
Frankenbrute had to take on three of the most popular trucks in the competition, and the truck snuck into the championship round by a margin of six votes.
In the final, Frankenbrute faced a truck called the Pink Bowtie. Its owner publicized the event so well that the Facebook page was hit over 129,000 times based on the Bowtie’s posts alone.
In the end, Liam’s family got its wish, and secretly, so did I.
As a sports reporter, I’m told I cannot cheer for the teams I report about. Though I avoid cheering, I do wish the teams the best, at least internally. Plain and simple, a successful team is more fun to cover.
Liam’s submission was different. I cheer for his recovery and for Greg Henderson as father of the year, and if the Torch could help in any way with the Sexiest Truck Competition, at least by giving the issue some light, we’re glad we did.