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No greater need than this

I didn’t know nine-year-old Bradley Shinkle. But, I feel like I did. Young Bradley was killed last Monday in a tragic accident on Highway 109 in Pike County. The highway in that area cuts across the base of a mountain range and is full of twists and turns. That fateful night was a rainy and foggy one. Bradley was a passenger in a large SUV driven by a family member. His four-year-old sister, Gracie, and 13-year-old brother, Christopher, were in the car as were three other relatives all under the age of 19. The SUV went out of control on the rain-slick highway and careened into the trees. The impact was so severe, Bradley’s seat belt broke and he was thrown from the vehicle and died on the highway. And, Christmas ‘“ as they previously knew it ‘“ was changed forever for Bradley’s survivors. Howie Shinkle is on his own. A single father, he had, at one point, two kids in two different hospitals as he tried to make arrangements to bury little Bradley. I have been to countless traffic accidents, senseless killings and other tragic scenes. I’ve seen EMTs make heroic efforts ‘“ successful and not ‘“ to save people. I’ve seen freshly murdered, mangled bodies and those hidden to rot. The cumulative effect of all that was a hardened heart. I had developed the ability to observe such mayhem without getting personally or emotionally involved. Bradley’s case was different. His death cut through my armor. His death shook me as I had not been shaken in quite some time. Maybe it was his age ‘“ the same as my youngest. Maybe it was the circumstances. Bradley and his companions were on their way to church to practice a Christmas program when he died. Instead of wearing an old bathrobe and portraying a shepherd in the Molena Baptist Church, Bradley went there for a funeral. His own. I cannot imagine a sadder tale but I know there is one. It is the fate of Bradley’s family ‘“ those left to mourn him and ask tens of thousands of whys. We cannot spare them that fate. We can, however, spare them financial hardship and the worries about how their medical bills and Bradley’s funeral expenses will be paid. A fund for Bradley Shinkle has been established at United Bank. You can donate at any branch. If you live far away and want to help, contact me and I will make it happen. Give the gift of compassion this Christmas. Give it to a family that earned it the hard way. There are many ways to give this holiday season. None will fill a greater need than this.

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