As Kathi Blevins and her service dog Oakley made their way through Peterbilt's Denton, Texas, manufacturing facility, they were met with inquisitive eyes, friendly smiles, welcoming waves and a few requests to pet the yellow Labrador.
While young college students often tour the Peterbilt plant, Kathi's visit appearance was a heartwarming break for truck assembly employees of Peterbilt. But it was a greater thrill for 20-year-old Kathi.
Kathi suffers from muscular dystrophy, a debilitating genetic disease that affects the muscles. She and her parents, Dennis and Beverly, are friends with Peterbilt Council of Class members Stan and Brenda Pierce, who for 18 years have organized an annual softball fundraiser to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Eight other owner-operators volunteer to help conduct the event, and the local trucking community, including Peterbilt of Cincinnati and the Pierces' carrier, Midwest Transportation, supports the effort. For the last 10 years, Kathi has thrown out the first pitch of the game.

"We think Kathi is a very special young lady," Stan says. "She is so smart and so determined, we like to do everything we can to help her. We've taken her for a few rides in our Peterbilt, and she just loves it. We wanted her to see the factory, and she wanted to go to Texas."
Each year, the Pierces give Kathi a special gift. One year they bought a star that was named after her; the next year, the couple gave her a telescope with which to view her star. This year, they called Peterbilt.
"When Stan mentioned Kathi's illness and her admiration of the Peterbilt trucks he and Brenda have owned over the years, it made perfect sense to bring her to Texas and show her how we build them," says Scott Pearson, general marketing manager. "I know how interesting it is to see a truck manufacturing plant, especially if you've never had a chance to see that sort of thing, and I knew MD had kept Kathi from travelling often."
Kathi, her companion dog, Oakley, and her family, who are from Middletown, Ohio, flew first class to Dallas for a long weekend to take in the sights and visit relatives. Stan and Peterbilt worked together to make all of the arrangements for the Blevins' stay.
While in Dallas, the Blevins family not only toured the Peterbilt plant, they enjoyed good food, a night at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, a stop by the John F. Kennedy Memorial and "shopping, shopping, shopping," Kathi says with a laugh. But it wasn't all fun, she admits. "I had to spend some time studying for a test," she says with all the loathing of the typical college student. Kathi attends Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where she is majoring in psychology.
"This was really special for Kathi," Dennis says. "Young people who have diseases such as Kathi's very often miss out on the more normal activities of life. So a weekend such as we had in Dallas means so much to her and to us. We are overwhelmed by the kindness of Peterbilt."