Hidden Hero

Warren County's Candy Man love for kids makes him a Hidden Hero

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 9/17/23

Alfred Wheeler is a Hidden Hero in the Warren County, Missouri, communities because of what he does to help kids in Warrenton and Truesdale.

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Hidden Hero

Warren County's Candy Man love for kids makes him a Hidden Hero


He’s The Candy Man for a reason.

As Alfred Wheeler walked down the narrow hallway at Excel Physical Therapy in Warrenton he had a sucker in hand.

Soon, he had a cape around his neck, too.

Wheeler was selected as this month’s Hidden Hero by The Record.

“It’s amazing,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler has been known as The Candy Man because of the candy he provides kids who attend the Warren County Fair parade. 

Meet Rich Barton, a previous hidden hero

“It just clicked in my mind, I’m going to be something different, going to do something for the kids, pass out stuff and do a good job,” he said. “I want to do something to make a difference. I can’t sit around doing nothing. It breaks my heart.”

It’s also something his mother taught him. And he said she would have been proud to see her son in his new superhero cape.

“She would love it,” he said.

His love for kids permeates everything he tries to do to benefit the community, and it’s why his friend Pam Van Horn nominated him for the honor.

They met while working in food services at Warrenton High School.

“I’ve known Alfred since 2015,” she said. “And I have watched him at school because we work together. He was always so encouraging to the children, encouraging them to work hard, to study, and taking care of the kids that need some extra help.”

His love for kids is what turned him into The Candy Man, and he said it’s also why there are sometimes big gaps in the parade.

Meet Linde Flanders, a previous Hidden Hero

“The kids want something,” Wheeler said. “We go up the street, we get big gaps but the kids are more important than the go, go go go. They said go, go. I said ‘no, the kids come first.”

And it’s because he wants kids to do their best.

Warren County Record Sales Manager Kelley Wright applauds as Alfred Wheeler shows off his new Hidden Hero superhero cape.
Warren County Record Sales Manager Kelley Wright applauds as Alfred Wheeler shows off his new Hidden Hero superhero cape.

“They see kids fall down, get in a lot of trouble and stuff. I told them it ain’t worth it,” Wheeler said.”I’ve been there. I know how it is.” 

And the kids get excited when they see The Candy Man coming.

“Everyone gets a smile on their face when you say The Candy Man,” Van Horn said. “He’s just a really great person and he does have a rapport with children. I just can’t say enough about that.”

That rapport on his hard work is what drew Shannon Schutte to The Candy Man. Schutte, who works at Excel, has gotten to know Wheeler as a patient. “We clicked right away and I knew that he was hard working.”

She also saw her own kids benefit from Wheeler’s dedication.

“They were the recipients of a lot of things that he gave away and how much they look forward to seeing him in school, and then to find out that he did all of these side jobs to make money for the parade. I mean, he just put so much work into and so much time and I decided if he would let me, I would love to join him.”

Schuette did join him, helping with the last two parades. Wheeler’s dedication has taken him back “way over 20 years.”

Meet Stacy Blondin, a previous Hidden Hero

That first parade was “me and my son in a car,” Wheeler said, laughing as he thought about the memory. “We had not much candy.”

That’s changed now, largely thanks to the relationships Wheeler has cultivated with local businesses.

“You know he gets a couple of the big businesses that will donate either items or money,” Schuette said. “A lot of it is his personality and relationships he’s built that make it possible to get all the stuff that he has.”

Wheeler also does a lot of other work to help raise money so he can continue to be The Candy Man, but he also knows sometimes his service is what’s needed.

For instance, he cuts grass for “a lot of people in this town,” he said.

“I’ve got older people. I cut for free because they have no money. I won’t charge nothing. I do what I want from my heart. I pay for my help but I don’t get paid at all.”

In the end, The Candy Man has become a staple in his Warren County community.

“I think he does it in the right way,” Schutte said. “He expects respect. He doesn’t want the begging and the whining and you earn his friendship and you earn the rewards. And so I think kids want that so they try a little bit harder to do well and to behave and to show up to school because there’s something to look forward to.”

“He’s just a genuine good person,” Van Horn said. “There will never be another Candy Man.”

The Warren County Record routinely accepts nominations for Hidden Heroes. The next recipient will be chosen in November. Nominations can be made online at warrencountyrecord.com/hiddenhero.

warren county, truesdale, warrenton, hero, candy man