Express Clydesdales Bring People Together in Northeastern Pennsylvania

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2016
All Rights Reserved

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom. Sharon Ralls Lemon

On a pleasant March afternoon, Kitch and I traveled to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs where we had the good fortune to participate in aHorses_7484 wonderful event featuring the World Champion Express Clydesdales.

In one respect we experienced a celebration of the grace and beauty of these magnificent horses. In another respect, we were drawn into a world of Irish culture that was joyful and heartwarming.

Hosted by Amy Clegg and Jeff Doran the event was designed to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network operated by the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Amy owns and operates the Express Employment Professionals franchise in Scranton. Jeff is her counterpart. His Express office is located in Wilkes-Barre.

Amy and Jeff are excellent representatives of their company, and they reflect the light of compassion, kindness and professionalism in everything they do.

Those values and so many more were at the core of events that brought happiness and joy to everyone who attended the second visit of the Express Clydesdales to our little corner of the world. If you doubt the accuracy of that statement please look closely at the faces of the children and the adults in the pictures in our article.

This is our attempt to recreate the most memorable moments of this very special afternoon.

The Children’s Choir

At about 3:30 p.m., a group of children from the Small Wonders Children Singing_7122Learning Center in North Scranton faced an adoring crowd of parents, grandparents, friends, relatives and Tux, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins mascot, as they sang several songs with energy and enthusiasm.

Included in their repertoire were these favorites: Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Lucky Leprechaun and Grand Old Flag.

As I watched these youngsters perform, the words of the internationally recognized master music educator Cheryl Lavender came to mind:

The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children.

The Magic of Bagpipes

According to those who study Irish history, bagpipers were a significant part of ancient Irish society dating back to 35 B.C.Jim Amy Jeff_7205

To this day, the distinctive music of the bagpiper is central to Ireland and Irish culture. According to some historians, it is more popular around the world than ever.

In putting together the program for the Clydesdales visit, Jeff Doran made sure a bagpiper would be there to entertain the guests, and that’s exactly what his friend Jim Sweeney did.

Standing at the top of the stairs overlooking the racetrack and the Clydesdales adoring fans, he captivated everyone with the glorious sounds of his music.

While listening to Jim Sweeney, one thing became obvious. If you want to hear the spirit of the Celtic soul, listen to the bagpipes.

The National Anthem

When Jim Sweeney finished his performance, Nikki Schake, Director of Nikki_7227Community Engagement for Express Employment Professionals in Scranton, introduced Mary Scheller.

Mary is well known to people who have heard her perform. She has a unique talent that enables her to personalize the words of our National Anthem in a way that reinforces the larger meaning of who we are as a people and what makes our country unique.

I am not embarrassed to say that when she sings these words, chills run up and down my spine :

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

A Poignant Moment

Joanna Bowser is the Coordinator of the Children’s Miracle Network.


She told her audience that all of the money raised by her organization stays in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

She thanked the members of the Express family for their support, and then she introduced children and their parents who received life saving care in Geisinger programs.

A 15-year old girl name Kaitlin described her battle with cystic fibrosis and juvenile diabetes.

Peyton was 8-years old when she was in an automobile accident. She sustained life threatening injuries. The help and care she received saved her life.

Ashland was 8-years old when she sustained head injuries that necessitated brain and eye surgery.

Kaitlin’s mother Tanya touched everyone’s heart when she spoke these words:

“I am grateful for all that they do to save lives.”

Someone once said: The best things in life are not things, they are moments. Listening to the poignant stories told by these genuine heroes was one of those moments.

And the Winners Are:

A good part of the final hour of the event was dedicated to picking Coloring Contest_7364and announcing the winners of the various items that were part of the raffle.

Before that happened, Amy Clegg took great delight in presenting the winners of the coloring contest.

With exuberance and pride, the four youngsters who won this contest held their images high above their heads so everyone in the room could see their creations.

It was a joyful moment.

Jeff Doran joined Amy in the front of the room when the 20 raffle winners were picked. One by one they came to the front of the room to claim their prize. The most coveted prizes were the bicycles donated by the Walmart Supercenter in Dickson City.

Stepping Up

The Irish have a saying: Dance with your heart and yourStep Dancers_7434 feet will follow.

That’s exactly what the students from the Crossmolina School of Dance did at the Clydesdales event. All decked out in their colorful costumes, they performed to the lilting sounds of Celtic music. They were delightful to watch, and very entertaining.

Under the watchful eye of their instructor Maureen Murphy King, the dancers exuded high spirit and confidence.

There is another Irish saying: Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.

The performance of the Irish step dancers touched the hearts of everyone who saw them perform.

The Queen is Crowned

One of the most anticipated events of the afternoon happened shortly Crowning Q_7404before 6 p.m.

The Miss Express Clydesdales Queen is all about promoting entrepreneurship. leadership and mentoring opportunities for young women.

Three young women were selected as finalists in the first competition of its kind in the history of the company: Kady Hodge, a senior at Tunkhannock High School, Grace Penney, a senior at Crestwood High School and Rachel Jones, a junior at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre.

During the Clydesdales event they were judged as they mingled in the crowd greeting people and handing out lollypops and stickers. They also helped with other chores.

When the votes were tallied, Rachel Jones was 2nd runner up, Grace Penney was 1st runner up, and Kady Hodge was the first young woman to earn the title of Miss Express Clydesdales. She won a thousand dollar scholarship to the college of her choice.

Grace Penney won a five hundred dollar scholarship, and Rachel Jones received a basket of goodies and gift cards.

Throughout the entire afternoon, all three of these contestants presented themselves with great dignity, discipline and class.

With broad smiles on their faces, they walked to the track where the Clydesdales were waiting to take them on a 20 minute ride around the track.

A Memorable Day with a Joyful Ending

Early in the afternoon,while people were standing in line waiting to picture with horsehave their picture taken with a Clydesdale, I had a very interesting conversation the Mike Hoehner, Special Events Marketing Manager for the Express Clydesdales.

During our conversation, I asked Mike to define success.

He responded with these words: “I can tell you bluntly one cannot climb the ladder of success by stepping on the backs of people.”

He also told me he believed that successful people are servant leaders. They use their authority to serve others.

Successful leaders have a good mentor. Mike’s mentor is Jack Smalley, one of the most respected members of the Express leadership team.

As I watched the six Clydesdales pull the Express coach around theClydesdales_7534 track, I thought about Mike Hoehner’s words, and I looked beyond the obvious.

Yes, this was a fundraising event.

Yes, this was a community outreach event.

Yes, it was an entertainment event.

Amy Staff_7300

But in my heart and mind, it was much more.

It was an example of many of the values that make America great: belonging, caring, compassion, creativity, community, discipline, excellence, empathy, gratitude, industry, kindness, responsibility, thoughtfulness, understanding, and opportunity.

Amy Clegg and Jeff Doran personify the principles of servant leadership.

Jeff Staff_7320

They encourage, empower and help the people who work with them.

They heal wounds and restore relationships. They bring people together.

They value the relationships they have with Lee, Jocelyn, Kari, Mary, Nikki, Kathleen, Samantha, Holly and Vivian, and they treat them with respect. They appreciate the volunteers who helped to make this special afternoon so successful.

What Kitch and I saw on Friday afternoon can only be described as Express at its best and a beautiful community moment which exemplified America at its best.

Thank you, Amy Clegg;

Thank You, Jeff Doran;

Thank You, Mike Hoehner;

Thank You, Clydesdale’s Trainers;

Thank you to all of the Express Employment Professional employees in Scranton & Wilkes-Barre, and all of the Express Employment Professional associates and volunteers;

Thank you photographers Danielle Antonello, Julie Overholser and Warren Ruda and artist Diane Grant Czajkowski. It was a joy to work with you.

In 1954, Ronald Duncan captured the beauty of this day when he wrote these words:

The horse. Here is nobility without conceit, friendship without envy, beauty without vanity. A willing servant, yet never a slave.

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