By Regina Elling
Sometimes, it is the community’s youngest members who are the best examples of leadership, courage and grace. And two of Ramona’s finest will be recognized when the Ramona Main Street Parade struts through town Saturday, May 17. The parade will start at 10 a.m. and go from 13th through Fifth streets.
“The theme of this year’s parade is Tattoos on R-Town,” says Joani Georgeson, rodeo co-chair. “It’s based on a country song sung by Jason Aldean, and the words are so fitting for our community and the ‘tattoos’ these kids are creating for us.”
James T. Dukes is dealing with a tough situation with dignity and grace. In early December the 8-year-old son of Tito and Maria Dukes was competing at the California Junior Rodeo Association. Despite feeling so ill he literally had to be carried into the arena on the final day, he won and was awarded Pee Wee Champion All Around Cowboy.
Immediately afterward, he was taken to doctors and received a diagnosis of Berkus lymphoma leukemia, a rare cancer. This type of cancer responds well to chemotherapy, and his cancer is currently in remission.
“My husband and I feel very fortunate living here in Ramona. We really feel that our community is here for us,” says Maria.
In addition to his parents, the family includes his two sisters: Kynara, 11, and Kelly, 9.
“There’s not a day that I don’t cry for a variety of reasons,” his mother says.
She adds, “He’s the kid that he is. He’s been through so much in such a short time, but has shown us the true meaning of ‘cowboy up.’”
James is looking forward to the parade and discovering what a grand marshal does, but he is equally excited about his next rodeo competition.
Alexavia Zetterberg, at 9 years old, has shown community leadership and spirit way beyond her young years.
She has spearheaded toy drives for Rady Children’s Hospital, volunteered to assist military families, created the Believe in Miracles organization to benefit Ramona families in need, and led book drives for Ramona Library, Barnett Elementary School and Busy Bee Preschool.
One of her most recent projects is beautifying Main Street in an effort she calls “10G10.” Ten people will each lead a group of 10 volunteers to improve town and help increase business. Some of the jobs to be completed include picking up trash, making basic repairs, weeding and painting.
When not helping others, Zetterberg earns top grades in school, takes acting classes and performs in local plays. The daughter of John and Regina Zetterberg, Alexavia has a brother and three sisters.
“I think it is the coolest thing,” says her mother. “It is a huge honor, and kids are our future, so this is really great.”
“I’m really excited that I get to represent Ramona in the parade. It’s an honor,” says Alexavia. “It’s amazing that people are recognizing the things that I am doing, but I really just want to help people.”