Annetta and Mike Milhon’s oldest granddaughter, MacKenna Milhon, was a giver.
Annetta said she would give MacKenna — a “red-headed, freckle-faced girl” — clothes on her wish list for Christmas, only to see her give them away to someone she thought needed them more.
“I’d ask her, ‘Where did those boots or sweatshirt go?’” Annetta said. “She would say, ‘Well, so-and-so didn’t have shoes, or someone didn’t have a jacket.’”
One thing MacKenna loved just as much as giving, Annette said, was being able to visit Stuhr Museum and ride horses, make jellies and bake apple pies as part of the museum’s Summer Adventure classes.
MacKenna died unexpectedly in December 2019, just days before her 20th birthday. When family members looked for a way to honor her memory, they decided to give.
The Alumni Scholarship in Memory of MacKenna Milhon, established by the family, will ensure free participation and transportation for as many as 50 children to every Stuhr Museum’s Summer Adventure class.
Kevin Forrest, MacKenna’s uncle, said the family brainstormed ways to honor MacKenna’s memory. The family originally discussed placing a bench on the Stuhr Museum grounds. But, after talking with Bonnie Smith, executive director of the Stuhr Museum Foundation, Forrest said the family decided to create the scholarship.
“The beauty of this scholarship is that it is perpetual, so it will honor her memory and help other kids,” Forrest said.
To be awarded the scholarship, Annetta said, students must be nominated by a schoolteacher or counselor. Smith said she hopes every child nominated can be awarded a scholarship this year, with more awarded next year.
Museum officials said the $30,000 scholarship was made possible by MacKenna’s loving family: grandparents Mike and Annetta Milhon, aunt and uncle Sunny and Kevin Forrest, and an employee nonprofit match made by Union Pacific Railroad.
Smith said the Stuhr Museum Foundation received an additional $5,000 grant from the Glade Foundation for transportation.
“They (Stuhr Museum Foundation) had the foresight to understand the issues with transportation and they helped secure a grant to pay for transportation specifically,” Forrest said. “This (scholarship) mainly pays for attendance, but all of the bases are covered. It pays to help get the kids here (Stuhr Museum).”
Annetta said the transportation addendum of the scholarship ensures that children in the Grand Island community, who may have barriers to transportation, are able to attend the Summer Adventure classes.
Smith said she is working with Grand Island Public Schools to provide the transportation. She said the goal would be to work with the district’s community school, Lincoln Elementary, and have a bus pickup and drop-off at that location.
“We also talked about maybe having a second stop at Wasmer where we would pick up another set of kids, bring them to the summer classes and then return them,” Smith said. “We thought about expanding that to include meals because we want to address every need that children could possibly have that would prevent them from participation and having the same opportunities as every other child.”
Smith said that with the scholarship allowing up to 50 children to attend Stuhr Museum’s Summer Adventure classes, it will create an opportunity for the museum to expand its offerings and sessions in the future.
Mike Milhon said that since he and his family are not able to buy birthday or Christmas presents for MacKenna every year, the scholarship will provide them a way to give in her name and make a difference for those in the community.
Those wishing to donate to the MacKenna Milhon Memorial Scholarship may do so at stuhrmuseum.org or by calling the Stuhr Museum Foundation at 308-385-5316.
“I would invite anybody that knows us to donate to this scholarship,” Mike said. “It is a good thing to donate to and we hope that it grows.”