A Courier-Post article about two Palmyra girls raising funds to be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York resulted in a very welcome surprise for the girls, Gussie Shemwell and Destiny Reed.
The article reminded Hannibal native James Huss, now of O’Fallon, of the fund-raising he did as he traveled to other countries to play baseball as a teen. He contacted the girls’ families and is donating airline tickets for both girls and Gussie’s mother, Jill, who will accompany them.
The girls qualified to be in the parade as four-year senior members of the Palmyra Panthers Pride Pom Squad. They will finance their trip with several fund-raisers.
Destiny said, “it was very overwhelming to find out he was going to pay for all of the airfare.” Destiny and Gussie will continue to raise funds to finance their hotel stay and six days of activities in New York, she said, includng a harbor cruise to the Statue of Liberty, and attending a Broadway musical and a performance by the Radio City Rockettes.
“We will be staying in the Hilton in New York,” Destiny said. “I’m very excited about that.” Destiny, Gussie and Jill will all be visiting New York for the first time. They will arrive on Nov. 23 and return on Nov. 29.
The girls’ fund-raisers include some on Aug. 14 and 21 at El Nopal restaurant in Palmyra, where 10 percent of their sales will be donated.
Gussie and Destiny also are selling Palmyra High School “spirit apparel.” The deadline for ordering the clothing is Aug. 23, so the items will arrive in time to be worn at the first football game. In October they will be selling food and have a garage sale.
Destiny contacted the Courier-Post to report Huss’ donation, explaining that his “random act of kindness and generosity has paid our airfare cost in full. This will make an immeasurable difference in our fund-raising efforts.”
Jill said, “we are very grateful for his generosity. His good deed has allowed us to use the money we make from fund-raising to go toward other aspects of our trip.”
As a youth,
to play ball
James Huss agreed to explain why he made the donation, first stressing that he understood the girls’ moms “wanted to share this with others” because “headlines are usually the bad stuff.”
However, he said, “I wanted them to understand I am not looking for a blue ribbon.”
Huss and his wife, Erin, have a 2-week-old son and an almost 3 year-old daughter.
His parents are Linda and Richard Huss of Hannibal. She is retired from teaching at Pettibone and Central schools and he retired as director of human resources at Continental Cement
Page 2 of 2 - James Huss is a 1997 Hannibal High School graduate. Because he had traveled to play baseball from the age of 10, and had fund-raisers to help finance his trips during his teens, he identified with the girls going to New York.
He explained that as an attorney with the Simmons Firm of Alton, Ill., he travels to represent people who are suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos.
As he travels, he takes some copies of the Courier-Post, which his parents bring from Hannibal on their weekly visits. “I came across that article and I didn’t just move on to the next headline,” Huss said. “I wanted to do something for these people. ... I stopped at a deli and sat down and sent an email (to the girls) and said ‘please forward the email to your parents.’”
Huss hoped they would understand, although he is a stranger to them. “They responded and took it as legitimate,” he reported. “They were above and beyond grateful.”
Explaining his connection with fund-raising, Huss said he had a unique childhood - “growing up with baseball in early childhood. At age 10 I played Select Baseball on a St. Louis team, and from age 10 on during the week I would stay with my teammates’ families. On weekends the team would travel all over the country and my parents would meet me.
“I was fortunate, and had all sorts of invitations to play baseball from Central American countries, through Europe. When it became international,” he needed financial help and had fund-raisers.
“There were one-column stories about me in the Courier-Post in the early 1990s - a picture of a kid named Jamie ... A car wash at Hardee’s ‘to send this kid to Europe.’
“I had a lot of really nice offers for college,” Huss continued. “I was not drafted. I ended up playing junior college baseball” and injured his shoulder. “Surgery was an option to repair my shoulder,” he continued. “They could repair the ligaments but said ‘later you will have the same injury.’ So I hung up the cleats at 20 years old and transferred to Mizzou and started getting serious about school (to eventually become an attorney).
“Baseball was the real deal,” he added. “And several of my buddies played major league baseball, but that wasn’t planned for me. I have a wife and healthy, beautiful babies and all seems well right now.”