BAKER — To many people, Mike Meeks was a nice guy, but those closest to him knew he was so much more.

“He was everybody’s best friend,” said Beth Brant, one of those friends. “He was first in line when someone needed something.”

Meeks passed away in 2012 after a massive heart attack.

In his honor, his friends and family last year founded the Mike Meeks Charity, a nonprofit with the sole purpose of allowing people in the community to experience a fun event while raising money to “benefit those less fortunate in our community, particularly children,” Brant said.

Brant said Meeks was always smiling.

“No matter what mood you were in, he would make your day better,” Brant said.

Brant’s son, Drew, said Meeks was like a second father to him.

“We would go to the barn and cook every Sunday afternoon,” Drew said. “He always welcomed everyone with open arms. You can’t really put into words what he was.”

Drew said as a young boy, Meeks seemed like Superman.

“He was a framer and contractor,” he said. “I remember watching him pick up two pieces of plywood and hand it up to the guys on the second floor of a house like it was a sheet of paper.”

Chris Meeks said carrying on his dad's legacy through the Mike Meeks Charity means a lot to him and his family.

“It brings back memories with him,” Chris said. “I know he would be doing the same thing if he was here.”

The group came up with a special way to honor Meeks through the Mike Meeks Charity Wild Game Dinner.

The inaugural dinner was held in February at Gum Creek Lodge, which has a special meaning to Meeks’ family and friends. The lodge was built by Meeks and Brant's husband in the early 1990s.

“They got a portable sawmill and cut some of the pine trees down and ran it through the sawmill,” Brant said. “Then they used the timber to build it.”

An auction raffle and clay shoot were held in conjunction with the dinner.

The shoot was a joint effort between the charity and the Baker School baseball program. Fathers of some of the players approached the charity about having the shoot and were put in charge of bringing the equipment and leading the event. The $4,000 raised from the clay shoot was given right back to Baker's baseball program.

Drew Brant said holding the dinner at the lodge seemed like the right thing to do.

“Mike built the whole thing. He’s been involved since day one,” Drew said. “He was a founding member and a major part of it, so there was no question.”

The dinner raised nearly $60,000 total for the charity and netted more than $38,000.

One-quarter of the money went to help with weekend backpack nutrition programs at schools throughout north Okaloosa County through Elie’s Voice. The nonprofit group provides help and advocacy to children and teenagers through suicide prevention information sharing and providing necessities in time of need.

“He (Meeks) was salt of the earth and showed his love for everyone every chance he got, but he had a particularly soft spot for children,” Beth Brant said.

She said the remaining money will be distributed throughout the year as the group identifies needs.

Chris Meeks said his dad would be proud of what the group has accomplished.

“He started this a long time ago and to see us carrying it on, he would love it,” Chris said. “I’m sure he’s smiling down from heaven.”

The next Mike Meeks Charity Wild Game Dinner is scheduled for Feb. 28 and 29, 2020.