On February 15, I noticed something in my fellow man that I thought was long lost in the hectic day-to-day, me-first, society of the 21st century. Kindness and the simple act of community is still very much alive in the little, somewhat obscure, hamlet of Sterling Park. I saw an unsung heroic effort worthy of high praise. Who is the hero, you ask, or what was the effort? Well, it wasn’t just one person nor was it one act. It was hundreds of people displaying their own form of kindness in one place on one day with two people leading the effort.
Mike and Beverly Schawalder of Mighty Mikes Bar and Grill in the heart of Sterling Park, were those leaders. Allow me to digress. On January 27th, the Mighty Mike’s community suffered a tragedy. Tina Williams, affectionately known as “Famous T”, suffered a Cerebral Hemorrhage so devastating that the doctors gave her a slim chance of surviving through the night. Just 46 and a single mother, one would think that her troubles would be reflected in her personality but it wasn’t. She was a constant pleasure to be around.
She was and is a wildly popular bartender for Mighty Mike’s and was very much liked by this writer as well everyone who was lucky enough to know her. I visited Mighty Mike’s the day before it happened and she was bouncing around the bar with her trademark perpetual smile and an energy level that made me feel as if I should be on a treadmill somewhere just to keep up. Tina was much more than a bartender. She was either part of the conversation or she created the conversation. I have always been a quiet guy but it’s tough to be that way around her because she wanted me to be part of the conversation and took steps to ensure that I mattered on many a Friday night. I will always be grateful for that. However, there is a broader story here.
One that isn’t known publicly or outside the tiny confines of this local tavern, but needs to be told loudly and often. The story of Mike and Beverly Schawalder and their extraordinary, yet unsung, acts of kindness toward their employees, patrons and others have always been confined within the decade old bar and with the people who patronize it. I’ve known Mike long before he and Beverly rescued a faltering business and created Mighty Mike’s ten years ago earlier. In his early twenties I could see that he was a man on a mission yet also possessed a kind nature toward people and knew, instantly, that he would eventually be a success. He along with his beautiful wife, Beverly, created what’s becoming a Sterling landmark. I’ve been an observer of such acts over the years.
A wall remembers the fallen employees and patrons who drank, laughed and celebrated their moments with the friendly faces there. Many of whom I’ve known for years and I’m thankful that I still get a chance to see their faces and remember my time with them. Too many times I’ve walked in the bar and see a simple vase of flowers, cards, lit candles and a favorite barstool resting with purpose against the bar to inform me and others that another friend will see their way upon the wall of honor. The Schawalder’s want their fallen patrons to be remembered fondly and that is a true vision into their sense of selfless acts of kindness that are seldom seen in this day and age. Whether it’s hosting disabled troops from the local hospital, motorcycle caravans for charity, benefits auctions for patrons or employees who have met tragedy or any cause, is worthy of their time and careful attention.
Now, for the reasons that February 15th meant so much to me and to further prove that the staff of Mighty Mike’s and Mike and Beverly themselves are people who deserve such high praise. I was invited to sign and sell books at a benefit auction at Mighty Mike’s for Tina. I did this without hesitation because I have a history with Mighty Mikes and, for Tina, I would do this every day. I saw former employees who donated their time for the cause to assure that the expected large turnout would be taken care of and they pulled it off masterfully. This was an event, I saw hundreds of regular people congregating for singular cause. This was all for Tina and her fight for life and to somewhat assist her young daughter, Stephanie, in coping financially while her mother recovers.
Mike and Beverly are much more than employers to Tina, they are also friends. How do I know this? Well Mike gives daily updates on Tina’s condition on a Facebook page set up for Tina (Tina Williams Aka Famous T). At this moment her friends total 270. 270 souls who are praying, hoping and hanging on to every word that Mike writes. What else can the man do to assist his ailing employee? The next day, with little sleep, he personally, with a few other patrons, moved all of Tina’s belongings into a storage unit because her landlord was selling the home she was living in. She was looking for a new place to live prior to her sudden illness and Mike wanted to insure that all her belongings would be there for her when she recovers.
Tina’s entire family was there and they could see, with their own eyes, what Tina means to all of us. The people brought so many items to auction off that it was filling up an entire room. Baked goods, Hockey tickets, Redskins memorabilia and anything and everything was in that room ready for John Peters (JP) to stretch out his auctioneers voice and start the bidding. I was at my table with my books displayed right in front of the action and saw heroes. I saw people happily handing over their money to buy trinkets not because they needed what was being sold, but it was my firm belief that they did it because they had fresh mental pictures of their time with Tina in their minds. Her mother’s and her sisters tear’s really showed as item after item sold and the people cheered with every resounding “SOLD” from JP’s call.
I charged $15 each for my books but people were handing me $20 and telling me to give the extra $5 to Tina as well. Soon, with my table devoid of books, I looked around at the crowd and was in awe of the heartfelt sentiments being thrown around the room. They didn’t seem to care about the money they lost because what they had gained appeared to be so much more valuable.
The total was $5,284 dollars collected for Tina on that very special night. An extraordinary sum for an extraordinary young lady. Every day that goes by, the signs seemingly point to Tina’s condition improving. However, she’s still a long way from her journeys end but with people like Mike and Beverly Schawalder, establishments and staff like Mighty Mike’s, and the faces I saw that night, her daughter, Stephanie, and her family can rest easy knowing that they have a large community praying for her quick recovery and that’s a huge amount of healing power. Get well Tina!
Gary D. Henry