BY GLENN PUIT
TRAVERSE CITY — The death of a 6-year-old boy at the Northwestern Michigan Fair prompted an outpouring of community support for a new bike path in the child's name at the fairgrounds.
Team Elmer's pledged the materials necessary to construct a bike path along the far eastern edge of the fairgrounds where Ezekiel "Zeke" Goodwin was fatally struck by a pickup on Aug. 8, a company spokeswoman said. Thousands of dollars raised from livestock sales at the fair also were donated to Goodwin's family, and donations for the bike path continue to roll in.
"Its all been out of the generosity of everyone's heart," said Darrel Robinson, president of the Northwestern Michigan 4-H Livestock Council.
Goodwin was struck by a pickup truck riding his bike on a dirt road leading to the fair's barns and auction grounds. The driver, Tad Marshal Thompson, 39, of Kingsley, was leaving the fair, forgot something, stopped his pickup and started to back up when it struck the child. Thompson told authorities he never saw the boy. An investigation is continuing, a Grand Traverse County Sheriff's official said.
The day after the accident, 15-year-old Joe Bancroft of Kingsley told 4-H leaders he wanted to donate the proceeds from the sale of his steer at the fair's auction. That spurred a wave of donations from other children selling livestock, which raised thousands of dollars.
"It was overwhelming, the support and the love in the room," said Bancroft's aunt, Cindy Gibler. "Everyone was crying when that steer was sold. It kind of inspired a lot of other kids to think about whether there was a portion of proceeds from their animal they could donate."
The heavily traveled dirt path where Goodwin was struck is shared by trucks hauling livestock trailers, recreational vehicles and dozens of young bike riders. More than 70 childrens' bikes were in racks at the end of the roadway the day after Goodwin's death. Children rode their bikes down the road adjacent to an occasional passing vehicle.
Robinson said "a lot of thought" will go into the construction of the bike path and related bike racks, which will lead from the barns to nearby camping areas and separate bicyclists from vehicles.
David Walls is a senior pastor at First Congregational Church where Zeke Goodwin's father, Jeff, serves as an assistant pastor. Walls said he's been deeply touched by the depth of community support for the bike path and concern for the Goodwin family.
"I have never lived anywhere or seen anything like this in terms of a community response," Walls said. "I've been associated with larger churches and larger communities — but this is so overwhelming. It doesn't matter where I am in the city. Everyone wants to speak to the issue, and the first thing everyone asks is, 'What we can we do to help?'"
Memorials are being made to the Northwestern Michigan Fair's Zeke Goodwin Bike Path Memorial Fund, 3606 Blair Town Hall Road, Traverse City, 49685. Donations that exceed the cost of the bike path will be put into a college fund for Goodwin's three siblings.