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Giving is the best present

Powersports gives early gift to local teen who battles cancer

The nurses at St. Jude’s would always laugh at the T-shirt Colby Simkovic wore to his chemotherapy treatments last summer.

“I love Jesus,” the shirt read. “But I cuss a little.” 

“His aunt bought that,” Cody’s mom, Carrie Bedilion Simkovic, said, with a chuckle of her own. “He does have faith. And a sense of humor.” 

On Wednesday, the 19-year-old from Waynesburg, Pa., who might occasionally go PG-13 was rendered speechless — almost — by an early Christmas gift.

A bestowing, it can be said, engineered with all the stealth and dexterity of Santa negotiating  your chimney after lights out Dec. 24.

That was when Scott Shaffer, the owner of Morgantown Powersports, asked Colby what he thought of that nifty 2021 Honda Pioneer 700 off-road vehicle on the showroom floor.

“I like it.” 

“Good. Because it’s yours.” 

The dealership on Mileground Road signed it over, free of charge.

Before Colby could say, “Thank you,” he had to throttle-up a question: “Why would somebody do that for me?” 

His mom supplied the answer.

“Because it’s you. Look at what you do for people.” 

The worst thing becomes the most positive thing 

When Colby was 8, he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer.

The nongerminomatous germ cell tumor was center mass in his brain, and chemotherapy was the only course.

Which meant lots of trips to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. — and even though the doctors and nurses worked hard to make it fun, it wasn’t always.

Not with the hospital beds, I.V. poles and scary-at-first scans, which were suddenly part of the worldview for a kid who likes building dog houses and everything else that involved a hammer, nails and wood.

A sense of mission was also constructed.

Ten years ago, the family, including his father, Jerry and sister Morgan, founded Colby’s Stars Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that raises money for the other families across the region with children who are battling cancer.

“We’ve raised $1 million,” Carrie Bedilion Simkovic said, of its decade of operation.

“Every bit of it goes to the families who need it. We even pay for postage out-of-pocket.” 

Carol Howard, meanwhile, thought it was time to pay it forward.

Simkovics with new four by four
Simkovic sits inside his new Honda Pioneer, alongside his parents Carrie and Jerry Simkovic and Scott Shaffer, owner of Morgantown Powersports — which gave the side-by-side to the 19-year-old Wednesday.

 No money down (seriously) 

Howard is lifelong friends with Colby’s aunt (and Carrie’s sister) Tammy — she being the buyer of the T-shirt that made Colby more famous than Elvis at the hospital in Memphis.

When Colby bought a battered 2014 Polaris all-terrain machine with lashed-together doors, Howard wanted to help.

She’s an off-road enthusiast and a regular at Morgantown Powersports, so she called general manager Donny Bowser for direction.

Bowser arranged for the Polaris to be hauled to Morgantown for a thorough look.

“Yeah, it was really beat-up,” Bowser said. “Really beat-up.” 

He brought the machine and the family’s story to Shaffer.

“I know what we should do,” the owner said.

“Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing,” the general manager said.

Shaffer steered it even more.

 “They’re a good family. They’ve been through a lot. As a company, we’ve been blessed.” 

“Just the look on his face,” Howard said.

‘I thought it was amazing’ 

Colby, meanwhile, is looking forward to winding out the Honda at his off-road destination: The Hatfield-McCoy Trail, which ruggedly unspools nearly 1,000 miles across southern West Virginia.

Mainly, though, the kid who likes to cuss a little just wants to thank people for their kindness.

Along the way, there have been medical victories and setbacks, too, he said.

But like a T-shirt with a sense of humor — and a sweet, bottle-green 2021 Honda Pioneer 700 with a killer sound system — the human spirit, Colby said, can traverse lots of obstacles.

“I thought it was amazing,” he said, of the story behind Wednesday’s events.

“I mean, I wasn’t expecting this at all. And I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.” 

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