Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Maci is diligent in her therapy.

There is nothing like hearing the giggles of kids playing or watching them chase each other and fall down in laughter.


Maci Winebarger did just that as a little girl. “There wasn’t much she wouldn’t try,” her parents, Jerry and Shari shared. “She was an active little girl.”

However, at only six-and-a-half years of age, she was diagnosed with a tumor on the end of her brain, a ‘brain stem glioma’.

“She was given little chance for survival,” her mother explained. This started a once active little girl, down an unknown path of tests, surgeries and therapies. “Maci has had thousands of hours of PT, OT, and Speech therapy over the past six plus years.”

On August 15, the family will fly to Fort Worth again for a follow up and adjustments. “We will fly back on the 19th as long as we don’t run into any issues,” Shari added.

Recently, Rick Dudding, who started ‘Wheels4Kids’ last year, heard of Maci’s brain injury. “I suffered with a serious brain injury when drunk drivers hit me 22 years ago,” Dudding shared. “I understand how it feels to have your world shook up and not to be able to do the things you were use to doing.”

Dudding had to relearn many daily functions, suffered seizures and was at a specialized head injury clinic for a time during his first two years of recovery. “I still suffer from forgetfulness and headaches,” Dudding said.

Though in a wheelchair, Maci still hopes to walk again one day, and be the ‘free’ young girl that resides in her heart.

With his heartfelt connection of understanding part of what Maci experiences on a daily basis, Dudding called upon some of his ‘car show buddies’ and recently talked with Lowes in Salem about having a benefit for Maci.

“We are honored that Rick would think of Maci especially given the health issues he faces as well,” Maci’s parents shared. “He is overlooking his health issues to care for others.”

“The manager told us that Saturday, September 23 will be open for us to have a benefit in their parking lot from 4pm-9pm,” Dudding said. Some of his friends from Salem’s Hot Rod and Honey’s Car Club will be assisting him in spreading the word to get as many people there as possible. “We’re very glad to be able to help out the young lady with the problem she is having in her life right now,” Steve Nichols from the club shared.

“We are hoping for a great turnout!” Dudding exclaimed. “There are a lot of people out there willing to help one another, we just have to let them know where the need is.” Maci is excited and “plans to be there to meet everyone”, she shared.

Maci was a healthy, vibrant little girl who played soccer and ballet. “She also loved to fish and was learning to shoot so she could go hunting with her daddy,” Maci’s mom shared. “She began showing small signs a few months before diagnosis such as moodiness, slurred speech, and eventually began to stumble more and more.” At first the family attributed the symptoms to other things as they had a death in the family and she was losing her front baby teeth. “Finally, we realized something was really wrong,” Shari said.

“By God’s grace, she has survived major surgery, removing as much of the tumor as they could, spent three and a half months recovering and in rehab, has endured around 35 total MRIs, 15 months of chemotherapy and another 13 months of chemo two years later,” Shari explained. “She also has PT and OT at Carilion Pediatric Therapy and does therapeutic horse riding every week at Healing Strides.” Someone shared that Maci still has hopes to walk again on her own and be the ‘free girl’ that resides still in her heart.

Maci also had another brain surgery last fall, when they installed a Deep Brain Stimulator, which was to help her with neurological issues that had arisen from the first surgery. “She has doctors in Roanoke, Baltimore, and Fort Worth, Texas that help her on a regular basis,” her mom said.

Still, her parents admit that, “Maci’s determination and resilience has been an inspiration to many!” A friend added, “Maci will bless you before you can bless her as her heart is to help others as well.”

Sadly, these years of medical care has accumulated large amounts of monies owed to different facilities. “We do all we can and pay what we can when the bills come in,” the Winebargers said.

Maci’s parents shared that they are humbled and overwhelmed by the care and love that is being shown to Maci. “We appreciate the monetary donation but even more the time and prayers each person is giving toward her,” they said. “All the love, prayers, and energy is what has pulled her through this thing that didn’t look like she would survive.”

Dudding and Nichols are encouraging everyone from Craig and other counties to call their friends and have them to attend the Wheels4Kids – Benefit4Maci, September 24, 4-9pm.

“If anyone would like to donate baked foods, canned drinks to sell, that would be great as well,” they said. All donations will be given directly to Maci and her family. Checks can be written to Maci or Shari Winebarger.

For more information, contact Rick Dudding (540) 312-9678 or Steve Nichols (540) 293-2099. “We hope to help Maci and her family to help curb the hardship they are experiencing,” said the family.

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