PEORIA — The large banquet hall of the Hilltop Grill looked as if it was closed for the night, except for the couple that sat at the end of a long table.
Jerry Tibbs, 67, and his wife, Linda, sat across from each other snacking on burger baskets that the friendly waitress brought out to them.
“I don’t know where everyone is at,” said Jerry as he turned to look at the door, where a neon pink “Limbs Up Crew” sign was taped to the window.
“There are usually a few people here by now,” Linda said as she grabbed a fry from Jerry’s basket.
Soon after, the door swung open and a small brown-haired girl came skipping into the banquet hall. She walked right to the table, sat down next to the couple and started chatting with them about a recent trip to Camp Big Sky. Behind her was her grandmother Bridget Tackman of Washington.
Some time passed before Harry and Bonnie Mustered of Havana walked in, followed by Tammie and Jon Higginbotham of Kilbourne, Mary Akers of Chillicothe, Ken and Sherrill Schoolman of West Peoria and then, finally, Willie and Debbie Brown of Peoria.
With each new face that walked through the door, Jerry Tibbs’ smile grew larger and brighter. By the time two tables were full, you would have thought it was Christmas morning and Tibbs was getting ready to open a mound of presents that sat before him. Their presence was his present.