By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
It was supposed to be a small gathering.
But to Keizer’s Noel MacDonald, it morphed into a real-life Bible story.
Noel said it all started with a simple request from son-in-law Michael Dayton, concerning her husband Dan and his Traeger grill. The couple’s youngest daughter, 2001 McNary High School grad Aleah, is Michael’s wife. They live in Washington and Michael is in the U.S. Navy.
“This got started a couple of months ago,” Noel said. “Mike asked if he could bring down the archery team from Wounded Warriors for Dan’s Traeger ribs. It was going to be a small gathering for six people at our home.”
That planned small gathering grew into a rib feast for nearly 100 people Aug. 4 at the American Legion Post 104 in Aloha. Members of Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor were in the area for the week, training at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton to prepare for the 2014 Warrior Games, which take place Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It was incredible,” Noel said of last week’s event. “It was totally a God thing where everything came together. We ended up smoking 36 racks of ribs total. There were a number of people from Keizer involved.”
Most importantly, that included neighbors of the MacDonalds who offered freezer space for the ribs.
Oldest daughter Cara MacDonald Meredith, due to give birth later this month, coordinated everything from San Francisco. The 1997 MHS grad worked with several groups, including Navy Safe Harbor, American Legion and Nike, to put the event together.
“Cara said let me take over,” Noel recalled. “Cara took over on July 10 to coordinate it. I let her do that. She coordinated with American Legion to hold it there. She was having conference calls and meeting with people.”
Members of American Legion Post 104 provided the space, cole slaw and drinks. Noel figured everything was ready.
“We knew we would be up to about 65 people,” she said. “We found out it was bigger when they walked through the door. It was like the loaves of bread and fish story in the Bible. But we had enough food.”
Noel estimates 90 people attended, including six soldiers from a recruiting office in Portland who helped serve their comrades.
“We had 13 servers,” Noel said. “There were 72 seats. Some people were in their wheelchairs. Every seat was filled.”
Noel knows there was some help from above in making sure everyone had enough food.
“All needs were met,” she said. “It was blessed by God. It came together. We had 10 loaves of french bread; one heel was left. We had made enough peach cobbler for 80 people; every drop was eaten. We had half a cup of cole slaw left and six carrots. It was just amazing. Everyone had enough. I wanted to hug every one of them, but I couldn’t because they all came in at once. It was more than we planned for, but you had to trust.”
The MacDonalds plan to go to the Wounded Warrior games again this year. There are a variety of sports, including volleyball and basketball. Participants include Dayton, a USS Ohio submariner who suffered third degree burns to both legs, his left arm and inhalation burns in a St. Patrick’s Day incident in 2007 but was back to active duty six months later.
“Wounded Warriors are an incredible group of men and women,” Noel said. “All of the military needs our support. These men and women have been handed a bad rap, but they don’t look at it that way. Just to be able to build them up, it’s incredible.”
While Cara coordinated the overall event, Aleah coordinated volunteers. Middle daughter Ashley Rogers did photography while her husband Shane was in charge of drinks and the volunteers.