Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

September 4, 2013

Little Debi knows how to do a big job

As United Way director, she's made goal 5 of 11 years.

(Continued)

Wallick was not involved with the Peru Circus during her school years, she said, because she was too busy with school activities. But as an adult, she became an integral part of the circus, using her background to train several acts, among them, Side by Side, Roman Ladders, Roller Blade, Web, Single Trap, Trampoline, and Tumbling.

Mike Miser was involved with the circus, too, and a romance developed. Wallick married Miser, who was divorced and had two children, Star and Jamie.

After getting Jan Douglas’ offer, Wallick reasoned that with Star and Matt about to graduate, it was a good time to make a career change.

Then she suffered another blow. Her mother, 73, died of emphysema.

There would be more tragedy. Mike, who worked at Smurfit Stone Container Corp. in Wabash, succumbed after a battle with throat cancer. He was just 48.

Fortunately, Wallick had family, friends, the circus and the Peru Rotary Club to lean on. As a fellow Rotarian, I marveled at the successful membership drive she created — a competition in which every member was on a team named after a university.

As a cheerleader for the wrestling team, Debi had become friends with Randy Wallick, who was a year behind her. Debi and Randy, a Peru businessman and legendary circus trainer who was divorced, began dating. They married in 2011, and Debi gained another stepdaughter, Brittany.

Meanwhile, Wallick’s creativity and determination were resulting in marketing efforts that helped keep the UW healthy during difficult economic times. The UW has made its goal five of her 11 years, which is remarkable considering the recent economic climate. In 2007, she said, Miami County had the highest per capita giving in Indiana — 117 percent.

Her current “baby” is the backpack program she created two years ago. Every Thursday, volunteers pack 7 to 9 pounds of food in backpacks for Head Start students to take home for the weekend. The food feeds them and family members.

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