ELKHART — Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese honored a 9-year-old local girl on Wednesday for her positivity in the face of adversity.
“Good to see you. Everything OK?” Neese said as he walked in to the Elkhart Council Chambers to proclaim Wednesday, June 19, 2019, Lilly Arteaga Day.
Lilianah Arteaga, a student Mary Feeser Elementary School, is diagnosed with Treacher Collins syndrome, which affects the development of some facial bones and tissues.
The mayor, after getting to know Arteaga, decided that her positivity and perseverance deserved official recognition, which is why he had invited her and her family to the Council Chambers.
“This is a great turnout – I didn’t realize it would be this big. We’ve had meetings in here where there weren’t this many. I’ve had fundraisers where I didn’t have this many,” Neese said.
The two “go way back” and have been friends for a long time, according to the mayor.
According to her grandparents, Arteaga is tired of doctors after having to go to the hospital more often than anyone would enjoy. Still, they said, she wants to be a “kid doctor” when she grows up.
“Proclamations are for special people, and you certainly fit that category,” Neese told Arteaga, before reading the official document that was given to her:
“WHEREAS: Lilianah Arteaga was born to Samantha Harting and Rey Arteaga on February 15, 2010; and
WHEREAS: Lilly is currently in the third grade at Elkhart’s Mary Feeser Elementary School, where math is her favorite subject; and
WHEREAS: Her favorite things to do include cheerleading, playing with friends, listening to JoJo, and eating macaroni and cheese; and
WHEREAS: Those who know Lilly describe her as a loving and spirited young lady; and
WHEREAS: At just nine years old, Lilly’s perseverance and positivity is an inspiration to her parents, grandparents, and friends like me;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Timothy Neese, Mayor of the City of Elkhart, do hereby proclaim June 19, 2019 as:
“LILLY ARTEAGA DAY”
and encourage all Elkhart residents to celebrate Lilly, and children just like her, who motivate us all to be kinder, more thoughtful friends and neighbors.”
After the proclamation, the mayor, family and friends lined up with a smiling Arteaga to take pictures, prompting Neese to note that she appears to have what it take to succeed in retail politics.
“I wouldn’t want to run against you for re-election,” he said. “I’d be closing down my headquarters real quick.”
Administrative assistant to the City Council, Mary Jo Weyrick, said that the mayor extending this kind of honor to a child is unique.
“She’s special. She’s real special,” Weyrick said. “(Neese) was at their house last summer for dinner, and he just fell in love with Lilly, so he decided to have a Lilly Day.”
One of Arteaga’s grandmothers used to work in the city’s Clerk’s Office and keeps Neese informed about how her grandchild is doing, Neese said.
The proclamation, he said, acknowledges Arteaga’s commitment to overcoming the challenges that have come her way and staying optimistic.
“Hopefully it lets her know that we appreciate all that she’s doing,” he said.
And, as the proclamation said, Arteaga’s demeanor is inspirational.
“Regardless of what situation we’re faced with, try to do it with dignity, try to not be discouraged and try to be a good example for people,” said Neese.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus