Courtney Clark receives a donation from Carrie Tromblee of Veterans Motorcycle Association auxiliary. The $1,450 will be used for a trip to Disney World with the Moriah Central School girls choir.
Nearly half of Courtney Clark’s life, her father has been in war zones with the U.S. Army.
“It’s hard,” the 13-year-old Moriah Central School student said. “I miss my father; I wish he was home.”
Herb Clark, a Witherbee native, is a sergeant with the 425th Field Artillery, Third Brigade stationed at Fort Drum. He’s now serving in Afghanistan — his sixth tour in a combat zone. He’s in his fourth year in Afghanistan after a year each in Bosnia and Kosovo.
“This is a man who has placed himself in harm’s way over and over for us,” said Keith Ashline of Rouses Point, commander of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 19-3. “He’s made tremendous sacrifices — and so has his family. Those are six years he’ll never get back with his family.”
To honor that sacrifice, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association decided to give Courtney a helping hand Jan. 10.
Courtney is a member of the Moriah Central School girls choir, which has been selected to perform this spring at Disney World in Florida. Members of the group have been raising money to make the trip.
Carrie Tromblee of Moriah, a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association auxiliary, is a family friend who learned about the trip from Courtney’s mother, Jolene.
“Times are tough for everyone, especially the families of our servicemen overseas,” Tromblee said. “Herb is not only a vet, he’s a great guy. When I told everyone about his situation they were excited to help out. It’s a privilege.”
The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 19-3 contributed $850 for Courtney’s Disney adventure. The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 19-2 of Fort Drum donated $350 and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 26-2 of Vermont gave $250.
Courtney, a junior varsity cheerleader at Moriah, was surprised when Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association representatives appeared during halftime of a recent game to present her with the money.
“This means everything to me,” she smiled. “I really appreciate what they’ve done for me. I’m shocked; I don’t know what to say. I just want to thank them very much.”
Courtney’s mother, Jolene, echoed her daughter’s sentiments.
“This is a wonderful act of kindness,” she said. “We’re so appreciative. I know it will mean so much to my husband.
“Courtney had been working to raise the money for the Disney trip, but this is a huge help and relief,” Jolene added. “It means so much to us.”
Bill Larrow, Moriah school superintendent, said he was happy to help arrange the surprise.
“This is great,” he said. “It’s really nice this organization is doing this for Courtney. It’s great that we can share this with our students.”
Ashline said the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association’s motto is “Veterans helping veterans.”
“When we see a need we step in,” Ashline said. “When we learned about Herb serving six tours and his family situation we wanted to help. We can never do enough to help men and women like Herb Clark.”
The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association had 15 members attend the surprise presentation.
The Moriah Central School women’s choir was selected to perform at Disney in Orlando, Fla., this spring as part of the Disney Performing Arts Program.
“Our group had to send in an application along with a recorded audition for review,” April Reeder, choir director, said. “About a week later, we were able to tell the girls they had made it, and what a moment that was. It was like that scene out of ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ when they move the bus and the family goes crazy. The girls were cheering, jumping, crying...it was incredible.”
The Moriah women’s choir features 25 students in grades 7 to 12. As part of the Disney Performing Arts Program, the Moriah singers will travel to Disney World and perform on stage for visitors to the theme park.
The performance at Disney will require a lot of rehearsals — and money. The Moriah choir must raise about $28,000 to cover the costs of the trip. Donations can be sent to Moriah Central School at 39 Viking Lane, Port Henry 12974. Checks can be made to Moriah Central School with chorus listed on the memo line.
Reader said her group still needs to raise about $6,000, but they are “absolutely” going to make the Disney trip.
“It’s destiny for these girls,” Reader said. “It’s been amazing how generous so many people have been.”