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Gift for giving: Teen embraces spirit of charity

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It seems fitting Columbus’ Kenton McInteer was born on Christmas.

He loves giving — giving of himself, to be exact, more than anything.

“People need to get up and find a job to do,” he said with a big grin. “And they need to have fun with it.”

The Columbus East High School junior, who turns 17 on Wednesday, speaks from personal experience.

The developmentally disabled teen had just finished investing an hour in his broad-based, community volunteer work that he sees as his job — hugging and kissing the dogs, cats and even a bunny at the Columbus Animal Shelter on Arnold Drive.

He spent so much time scurrying from one spot to the next that, by the time he finished his hugfest, his face bore a sheen of sweat.

A few of the animals responded by licking his cheek or nuzzling his nose.

A love for helping others

Name: Kenton McInteer

Age: 17 on Wednesday

Lives: In Columbus

Student: At Columbus East High School, where he is a junior

Parents: Dad, Joe McInteer; Mom, Sherry Lee; stepmom, Sukie Decker, all of Columbus

He spoke to them softly, and held and hugged a doe-eyed puppy with a disfigured front leg.

“They understand,” he said.

Kenton lets his actions speak louder than anything else.

Besides his volunteer efforts for 90 minutes twice a week at the animal center, over the past year Kenton also has:

  • Rung the bell for Brown County’s Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.
  • Taken tickets at the Columbus Scottish Festival.
  • Helped repair computers at Tech Reconnect.
  • Sold raffle tickets for Advocates for Children.
  • Handled various tasks at Love Chapel food pantry.
  • Helped with office work for Habitat for Humanity.
  • Volunteered behind the scenes at Halloween’s Night of a Thousand Jacks.
  • Handed out blankets to men coming off the street at Indianapolis’ Wheeler Mission.
  • Visited patients at area nursing homes with his grandmother.

A few of the efforts are linked with a Columbus East class, job and career exploration, led by teacher Sandi Spall.

“Kenton’s got a great big heart,” Spall said. “And he has a great amount of sunshine.”

He learned to volunteer through dad Joe McInteer, mom Sherry Lee and stepmom Sukie Decker, all of Columbus.

But he has also initiated helpful tasks on his own.

Not long ago, when Kenton heard an elderly woman needed someone to remove a fallen tree in her yard, the teen offered to volunteer his services.

“He’s just never met a stranger,” Decker said.

And he’s rarely shown anger or irritation even toward neighborhood bullies who have mocked his disability or called him names.

“In fact,” Lee said, “he still tries to be their friend.”

In addition, he has reached into his pocket and given others his last dollar when he knew they needed the money more than he did.

“Giving is in his heart,” Lee said, adding that he regularly tries to comfort those he knows to be hurting emotionally, including his developmentally disabled uncle.

“It’s who he is.”

Perhaps he is tailor-made for all this giving. His mother wonders about that from time to time.

Because this young man born Christmas day bears another small mark of the holiday. Resting just below his belly button is an unmistakable, brown birthmark.

It is shaped like a Christmas tree.

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