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Mr. Middletown take a crown: MAHS senior Barrett raises most money in Mini-THON fundraising event

By David Barr davidbarr@pressandjournal.com
Posted 3/29/17

A raucous crowd and a standing ovation greeted Jacob Barrett on Friday night after he took home the honor of Mr. Middletown.

Barrett was one of 12 senior boys vying for the title. But his …

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Mr. Middletown take a crown: MAHS senior Barrett raises most money in Mini-THON fundraising event

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A raucous crowd and a standing ovation greeted Jacob Barrett on Friday night after he took home the honor of Mr. Middletown.

Barrett was one of 12 senior boys vying for the title. But his victory took a backseat to the knowledge that more than $10,000 had been raised through the event for the school’s Mini-THON.

The 12 contestants started raising money once they had committed to the Mr. Middletown pageant and the winner was the student who raised the most amount of money in his name before and during the event.

Barrett raised more than $2,000, beating out Caleb Ocker and Griffin Radabaugh, who tied for second. The two also raised more than $2,000, but final numbers were not available for each person.

The night consisted of a formal wear/interview portion, a swimsuit contest, and a demonstration of talent — all in good fun — before results were tallied and announced. For his winning effort, Barrett demonstrated his piano-playing abilities and rocked a colorful shirt, a hat, and pair of sunglasses while carrying a green pail during the swimsuit competition.

Jacob has Down syndrome and is non-verbal, but that didn’t stop him from participating and it didn’t stop the contestants and other volunteers associated with Mr. Middletown from helping him out with the different sections of the event.

According to Jacob’s mother, Linda, it was at the suggestion of Corbin Stetler, one of the 12 contestants, to Jacob’s teacher, Deanna Morder, that Jacob should participate. Linda admitted she was “a little nervous at first” at the idea of Jacob participating in Mr. Middletown, but once she saw and understood what it was all about, her fears were reduced.

Since Jacob has an electric keyboard he enjoys playing with at home, Morder and Andrew Vensel, the high school music teacher, helped program one of the school’s keyboards to help Jacob with his talent. Linda said that Jacob could tell he had won since he was making silly faces after the event. Making faces is how Jacob signals he’s happy.

“He was thrilled,” Linda said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better night.”

She said Jacob loved hanging out with the other boys during practices and everyone was kind and thoughtful towards him in the days and weeks leading up to last Friday night.

“Everybody was great,” Linda said.

Morder added that Jacob deserved the Mr. Middletown title since he not only earned money for children fighting cancer, but he also showed his peers and family that he could compete in the pageant and shows lots of school spirit and pride in being a Blue Raider.

“When he won I was so proud of him, he worked so hard and helped others for their fight with cancer,” Morder said in an email.

For the pageant, each boy was introduced to his own theme song. After the formal wear/questionnaire part, the boys strutted their stuff in the swimsuit competition before displaying their various talents. Most of these included music in some format, whether it was lip synching, live singing, playing an instrument, or dancing to a song, but painting a landscape portrait was also demonstrated by Abel Botterbusch and cheerleading abilities were shown by Ian Guckavan.

A group dance followed the talent section before a brief intermission during which, the boys were allowed to solicit final donations in their name for the chance to be Mr. Middletown.

Once the numbers were tallied, the final results were shown, with $10,020 being raised. Caleb Ocker and Griffin Radabaugh finished tied for second behind Barrett. Not even a lip-synching duet with Kobe Sprecher to “I Love The Way You Lie” could push Radabaugh over the top, but he wasn’t upset. This result was after Radabaugh’s goal was to earn just $50 during the entire Mr. Middletown event and during the first week of donations, he wasn’t close to that amount.

“Everything we did tonight was for the kids,” Radabaugh said. “We’re helping something that’s bigger than ourselves right now. It feels great to know we could potentially save a kid’s life, it feels great.”

Ocker also elected to partner up for the talent portion, teaming with Malik Noon to dance to “The Story Of Love.” It didn’t hurt him to finish behind Barrett as he said in the moments leading up to the winner’s unveiling after the tie had been announced, that he was hoping Barrett would win. Barrett’s win in addition to the total amount raised made it a successful night for Ocker.

“It feels awesome to be part of a good cause,” Ocker said.

Middletown Mini-THON co-adviser Cheryl Friedman said she was “beyond excited” about the end result of Friday’s event as they had never had a crowd that big at the previous Mr. Middletown events before and the goal was a combined $7,000 for the entire event and they exceeded that amount by far.

“I never thought we’d do over $10,000,” Friedman said.