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Keith Ashline (right) of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, presents Moriah Central School student and cheerleader Courtney Clark with funds the group raised for her to join her school chorus in performing at Disney World this spring. Her father is serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. From left are Courtney's mother, Jolene, and sister, Kayla, with chorus adviser, April Reeder.

Courtney Clark had no idea she was about to get a visit from 15 members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association during Tuesday's Moriah vs. Peru basketball contest.

Courtney is a member of the Moriah Central School Women's Choir, which has been invited to perform at Disney World in Orlando during spring break in March.

Her father, U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Herbert Clark, is serving in Afghanistan with the 425th Field Artillery, Third Brigade, out of Fort Drum. A career soldier, he's been there for four years and before that was stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo for two years.

It looked like Courtney might not get to go on the chorus trip, because her family doesn't have much extra money, and she'd had trouble raising the needed funds.

"I've been trying," the 13-year-old Port Henry resident said after the ceremony. "I've been working a lot on raising money to get there. I really wanted to go to Disney World. I'm looking forward to it a lot."

A VETERAN'S DAUGHTER

When the veterans learned of Courtney's plight, they decided to help, said Keith Ashline of Rouses Point, commanding officer of the Northern New York Chapter.

"It's a need for a veteran's daughter, so we decided to step in," Ashline said. "Sgt. Clark is making a great sacrifice. His daughter hasn't seen him much. He's been deployed for six years."

He said the grant is a sign of appreciation to Clark and his family.

"He's put himself in harm's way for us. We wanted to do what we could for him."

A junior varsity cheerleader for Moriah, Courtney was sitting in the stands when the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association members streamed onto the middle of the basketball court during halftime.

They had with them three checks for Courtney, representing a total of $1,450 raised by chapters representing Fort Drum, Northern New York and Vermont.

"We didn't tell her. It was a total surprise," Moriah School Superintendent William Larrow said. "The veterans did something really nice for Courtney and her family."

A look of surprise spread over Courtney's face after she was called to center court for the presentation. Then she fought back tears.

She embraced Combat Veterans member Carrie Tromblee of Moriah, who helped organize the effort.

"It means everything to me," Courtney said. "I really appreciate what they did for me. I was extremely shocked. I'd like to thank them very much."

LITTLE MIRACLES

Courtney lives with her mother on Rice Lane in Port Henry, along with her elementary-school-age brother, Cody, and sister, Kayla.

Tromblee, who's the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Auxiliary representative for the Northern New York chapter, is a family friend.

"Jolene and I were walking, and she started telling me about her daughter being chosen to go to Disney World. I knew Herb was a combat veteran. He's served his country well. When I talked to them (Motorcycle Association members), bam, they wanted to help."

The visit to Disney World is part of the Disney Performing Arts Program. About 25 students in the Moriah Central School Women's Choir will be going.

Music teacher and chorus adviser April Reeder said they still must raise about $5,000 more for the trip and have six weeks to do it.

"It's been amazing how we've had little miracles like this along the way," Reeder said. "Our group had to send in an application along with a recorded audition for review. When we told the girls they'd made it, they were cheering, jumping, crying.

"We're going to Florida — there's no doubt in my mind."

Email Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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