Gone Fishin’

TMMK team members grant one of their own, grieving the loss of his daughter, a day of respite on nearby Lake Cumberland

July 25, 2017

Reelin' It In -- Greg Haddix -- one of the two managers who headlined the trip -- shows off his catch, joined by colleague Anthony Kehoe.

Scott Keene says he enjoys fishing, though he rarely gets the chance to try his hand at it. So perhaps it was more luck than skill when the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) team member snared a five-pound, 23-inch small mouth bass during a very special day in February spent on nearby Lake Cumberland with the plant’s two General Assembly managers, Greg Haddix and Todd Akins.
Generosity of spirit, though, most definitely played a part. Keene only made the trip because of his fellow team members. They raised $700 and, on Keene’s behalf, placed the winning bid on a “Fishing with the Managers” item in a silent auction TMMK held last fall to help raise money for two local charities.
A year before, you see, Keene and his wife Karen had lost their three-year-old daughter Madeline Grace to heart failure. The couple knew from birth that she faced long odds. But there was hope of a happy ending when, after five months on the waiting list, Madeline’s turn came to receive a heart transplant. Tragically, complications arose soon after the surgery. Just 16 days later, she was gone.
“We all knew his story and we could all tell just how much it weighed on him,” says Kevin Ritchie, Keene’s group leader. “So when we discovered that Scott had a passion for fishing and the trip with the managers was being auctioned off, we decided to try to win it for him.”

Out of Office -- Among the TMMK team members who went fishing were (left to right) Todd Aklins, Scott Keene, Greg Haddix and Anthony Kehoe.

“Like a Family”
Ritchie said the effort started small but soon spread throughout the shop. Within two days, some 50 team members had opened up not just their hearts but their wallets. Many of these same co-workers had previously raised money to help the Keenes offset their medical bills – including sales of “My Heart Beats for Madeline” T-shirts. But the contributions toward the fishing trip went above and beyond.
“His group here is like a family,” says Haddix. “They really rallied around him.”
“It was amazing how quickly it grew,” says Ritchie. “It was totally unexpected. To be honest, I didn’t think it’d go that far.”
Keene, meanwhile, was caught completely unaware.
“I was very humbled by it all,” he says. “It just amazes me that the people I work with care enough to not only give of their time but to go the extra step and contribute financially. I get kind of emotional when I think about it.”

Fly By -- A bald eagle puts on a show for TMMK team members Dave Morgan (left) and Craig Owings.

Magical Memories
His day on the lake turned out to be pretty darn magical, too – though it got off to a daunting start. The temperature was only 18 degrees when they arrived at the lake and the boat was actually frozen to the trailer. In the early going, they were doubtful of catching anything with ice building up on the guides of their rods.
But all’s well that ends well: Keene, Haddix and Akins reeled in about 20 fish between them – including Keene’s whopper. And midway through the day, once the temperature had warmed up into the 40s, the trio was treated to an up-close-and-personal encounter with a pair of bald eagles who circled just eight feet above them in search of fish of their own.
“To be honest, we all just dropped what we were doing to watch them,” says Haddix. “They were just mesmerizing.”
“I’m itching to go again, just as soon as I get a free day,” says Keene. “Words can’t describe just how grateful I am to my team members for making those memories possible for me. I am so blessed.”
By Dan Miller

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