Living in the Iola area, it is not usually to hear about the locals that volunteer at the Iola Old Car Show.
It fact, it is almost the norm.
So when 68-year old Donny Jensen of Scandinavia stepped into the Old Car Show office to volunteer his time, it was not a surprise.
Jensen, however, has gone above and beyond for the show this past year, volunteering over 547 hours.
“We don’t have the money to donate to these organizations,” said Jensen. “But I do have time.”
What makes Jensen’s story even more interesting is the fact that he is a double amputee.
Diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 14, complications of the disease caused him to lose his first leg in 1987 and the second in 1988.
“It started out as a hangnail,” said Jensen, “and it turned into gangrene. The doctor suggested they amputate before it got any worse.”
Jensen admits he was not the perfect example of a diabetic.
“I wish I would have done things differently,” he said. “I am doing that now. It’s been 31 years since I quit smoking and drinking.”
Before Jensen started volunteering at the Car Show, he shared his story with Operations Manager Larry Fechter.
“Larry was new, so I wanted to lay all the cards on the table for him,” he said. “I figured they have to know my situation.”
In addition to the loss of his legs, Jensen is missing five of his finger tips, has 11 stints in his heart, received a donor kidney, and has had two major heart attacks and a pacemaker.
It however, has definitely not slowed Jensen down.
“Donny is an inspiration,” said Fechter. “He is dedicated to what he does and is there every day to get the job done. We call him the bionic man.”
Jensen spends his time mowing the grass at the campground, around the barn and 55 acres of show grounds.
“In an operation as big is this, lawn cutting is very time consuming,” said Fechter. “If we did not have Donny, we would have to utilize some of the staff that we have, which would take us away from other things.”
Both Fechter and Jensen agree, with the amount of time spent on the lawnmower this past summer, Jensen could have driven all the way to Florida.
“It gives me something to do,” said Jensen, “and, it’s good therapy.”
Donating all his hours to the Scandinavia Booster Club, Jensen only had one request: he wanted to present the Booster Club with the check from the car show.
“It was the least we could do for him,” said Fechter.
“I spent 26 years helping out at the (Scandinavia) Corn Roast,” said Jensen. “This year I couldn’t do that, so this is one way that I can make a difference.”
Jensen admits that things are not always easy.
“Sometimes the people around me feel weird about my legs,” said Jensen. “It’s at those times I just take my legs off and pass them around, and make some jokes to put them at ease.”
And when the going gets tough?
“You have to live your life as you need and with what you got. I have got my health and I have a whole bunch of great friends,” he said. “I work with a great bunch of good people as well; they all watch over me and treat me as an equal.”
Jensen will continue to donate his time as long as he can.
“Larry has told me I am in charge of the lawn now,” he said. “I will continue to do it as long as my health is good. I have to admit, I never thought I would ever be mowing that many acres.”
During the annual meeting of the Iola Old Car Show, Jensen was presented with a picture of the car show grounds, in recognition of all he has done.