The Friends Of Tommy Hicks presented $200 in prize money to two talented East Middle School Students last week in a socially distanced ceremony that included many face masks.
Hicks published The Amazin' Shopper for 12 years. It was the publication that became Rutherford Weekly in 2004. He was a highly regarded sports writer, substitute teacher, insurance salesman, businessman and salesman. He passed in 2017 at the age of 63.
The Friends group meets annually on his birthday, January 16 and on other occasions to keep his memory alive.
Sadie Moore and Addison Wilkie won for their writing efforts from among several dozen East Middle students who entered the contest.
Students were encouraged to celebrate overcomers who had dealt with disabilities as Hicks dealt with Muscular Dystrophy from the time he was diagnosed at nine years old.
The students were also encouraged to write outrageous stories, not unlike the stories Hicks used to concoct about ghosts, monsters, and aliens from outer space.
Here is the story that won for Addison Wilkie:
Saturday was like every other Saturday for me: video games, binge watching "Riverdale", eating Pizza, and waiting for my parents and siblings to come back from their Saturday night activities. I was sitting peacefully watching "Riverdale", when I heard something loud and head-splitting. I didn't give much mind to it at first until, "BOOOOOM"! The whole house shook. Another "BOOOM"! The sky was lit up with streaks of reds and oranges. World War III, I didn't think it would ever happen, but it was... it was happening right before my eyes!
I sprinted back inside, and full of fear, dialed my parents, no answer. I turned on the news. An "Emergency News" icon came across the screen of the TV.
"World War Three has begun." I read slowly.
"Leave for the shelters! Leave no person behind! The War has begun..." said the woman on the screen.
I about tripped over the leg of the chair in my living room. What could I do? I could go to my neighbor's house, or I could call the police. No, they wouldn't answer. I heard the door open. Who was it? I peeked over the corner of the wall facing towards the front door. A soldier from the other country! I ran quietly through the doorways until I reached the basement. A plan... I needed a plan. Ah, I got it, I'll hide in a suitcase.
I heard footsteps coming from the stairs. I needed to move quick. Once I was in the suitcase, I steadied my breathing and tried to calm down. I saw him come through the doorway. He looked exhausted... and young about thirteen, a year older than me.
The oddest thing happened next. He began to cry and pray. He said something I couldn't make out, but it was English.
"I know you're in here." He said. "Please help me, I promise I won't hurt you and I can help you... somehow." He looked sincere. I slowly unzipped the suitcase completely. He must have heard me because he curiously walked over. I backed up as many paces as I could.
"I don't know what's going on," he said sadly and full of confusion.
"Me neither... is there a way to stop this? I wish I could just push a button and make it end." I said solemnly with a tear streaming down my face.
"Follow." He said, clearly wanting to help.
"Press it. It will end the war." He said even though I didn't believe him and he knew it. But, sure enough he was being serious. BOOOOOOOOM! Another explosion. I pushed the button slowly, scared it would set off another explosion. It had all happened so fast.
I woke up to my alarm going off with loud alarm sounds. Was it all just a dream?
"Grace!" I heard my mom say. Obviously angry at me, "Your alarm has gone off for the fourth time. Get up!"
Wilkie's flare for fiction matched Hicks's. The former publisher joked with friends that he liked to be called Big Man; and it worked as many friends did call him that. He also referred to former East Rutherford teacher and coach Billy Joe Davis as "Big Man," and legendary coach and principal Connie Mac Hamrick with the same nickname.
Maybe most poignant to those who remember Hicks is the winning poem from Sadie Moore. She wrote:
Don't give in
Todays the day you will thrive
Today's the day you will try
Just because you have a disability
Don't let that be your pity
Instead reach your hands to the sky
Tell every hardship and problem goodbye
You are grand
Tell that to everyone who says you're bland There are people out there who will ask for your hand
Take it be their friend
You see a roadblock
Go around it
There a problem
You don't give in
You made everything perfect in the end.
East Middle Principal, Dr. Lindsay Walker, was present for the ceremony and promoted the contest.