Toddler’s gesture gets family meeting with Bush

Bill Ford

Zoe Sellers was just trying to blow her grandfather kisses.

The 2-year-old Macomb resident didn't realize her gesture would gain she and her family a personal meeting with the President of the United States.

In fact, the toddler didn't even know the man standing next to her granddad on the tarmac at Greater Peoria Regional Airport on Friday.

"(Zoe) hadn't seen her Papa until he was up with the president," said Stephanie Sellers, Zoe's mom and Storey's daughter. "She didn't realize who that other man was. She was just to excited to see her Papa."

Sellers' grandpa, Roy Storey, was being recognized and awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award on Friday during President Bush's visit to Peoria.

The Sellers family was a distance away from the president behind a concrete barrier and police tape along with the press and a dozen or so others that had been cleared to attend.

The Sellers family started waving at Storey and little Zoe took it a step farther. Luckily for them, President Bush mistook whom the kisses were directed at.

"He blew a kiss back to my daughter and that was it. You could see him motioning, 'Come on over,'" Stephanie Sellers said.

The family would get a chance to get closer than the rest of the crowd, but not immediately.

"I looked at my husband and said, 'We're not moving until the secret service tells us to," She said. "They didn't see him telling us to come over there. If we would've moved, they probably would have shot us. We stood there and waited and one of the secret service guys came and led us around the concrete barrier and under the police tape."

Upon reaching the president, Sellers said her family was able to shake hands with Bush and exchange a few small pleasantries.

"We shook hands and he said to us, 'God bless you,'" she said. "We said, 'God bless you Mr. President.' And he said, 'God has already really blessed me.'"

Sellers said the president was very gracious and kind and didn't seem quick to brush them aside. She also said Bush was very warm with her father.

The president also posed for a picture with the family, a memento for the Sellers' to remember the occasion. Not that they could forget it.

"We wouldn't believe we were meeting the leader of the free world," she said. "We believe no matter your political affiliation, you still have respect for the office of the president."

Stephanie Sellers said Zoe, along with her 4-year-old son Owen, may be a few years before they can really appreciate the encounter.

In fact, Owen may have the chance to eventually boast having had his picture with two presidents.

"When he was six months old, we went to see Barack Obama speak in Monmouth," Sellers said. "Maybe my son has some destiny to become President or something."

Overall, though, Sellers said the biggest memory the family will take away from the event was the fact her father was recognized for his work. Sellers volunteers four days a week to tutor kids in Peoria schools. All told, he has tutored hundreds of kids pro bono.

"The biggest thing we'll take away is that my dad has given himself to serve the country and bettering his community," Stephanie Sellers said. "He's trying to make a difference in the lives of children."

Macomb Journal