Disney's Herbie comes a-callin' in Green Forest -- Robert Smith's wish is granted

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

GREEN FOREST ---- It was a wish come true for Robert Smith, a blue-eyed teenager who finally got to see his favorite Disney star, Shaking Herbie, when the famous car made a special stop in Green Forest last Friday.

Herbie, featured in four Disney movies, was on its way from Effingham, Ill., to Eureka Springs for the annual Volkswagon weekend when it stopped at the Green Forest School for an overdue visit with Robert.

The visit was years in the making.

Robert, who is confined to a wheelchair because of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was scheduled to fly to Florida four years ago after the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted his wish to see Shaking Herbie. However, medical complications kept him from going. Instead, he went to Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Mo., for the day.

It appeared that his wish would never be fulfilled ---- until last week.

His former teacher, Vickie Magdefrau, noticed in the newspaper that Herbie was scheduled for a guest appearance at the annual Volkswagon show in Eureka Springs.

She shared the information with Robert's current teacher, Pam Gotto, who started making phone calls.

Gotto called Dave Heilemann, at the Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka, where Herbie was to appear.

Heilemann, in turn, put Gotto in touch with Herbie's owner, Fred Gaca, with Mid America Motorworks, in Effingham, Ill, and a special stop was arranged.

"When we heard about Robert's wish, we said we would make it happen," remembered Gaca, who transported Herbie to the school on a trailer.

Herbie does not have a motor or transmission, he said, and was never driven because it was used in the movies to shoot fixed shots. Herbie "shakes" when an electric motor spins a counter weight.

He said Herbie spends most of its days in an Illinois museum, "My Garage," along with another authentic Herbie and other unique vehicles.

As Gaca neared Green Forest with Herbie in tow, he contacted local police who provided a police escort from city limits to the school, where Robert and his fellow classmates were anxiously waiting.

Robert, who has all four Herbie movies, was all smiles as he watched students and teachers climb aboard the Love Bug for a "shake." Although he couldn't climb inside himself, Robert was clearly happy to be near his favorite Disney star ---- the famous Shaking Herbie.

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