SACO – Isaac Tucker focused as he drove a small tractor down a straight path pulling a weighted machine behind him, stopping only as a red flag flew up in front of him.

Volunteers unhitched the tractor, and Isaac drove it back around for the next child to get in line and try his or her hand at tractor pulling.

As he took off the helmet and went back to his mother’s side, the concentration that had been on his face while driving was replaced with a smile.

“I like that one better,” he said, telling his mother, Marissa Tucker, that it was faster than the first one he tried.

Isaac, 9, of Biddeford was one of 19 “Make-A-Wish children” at Sunday’s tractor pull hosted by the Southern Maine Garden Tractor Club as a fundraiser for the nonprofit that grants wishes to young children with life-threatening illnesses.

Now in its fourth year, the tractor pull and afternoon auction raised more than $6,000. Last year, the club raised $9,300, nearly enough to grant two wishes.

“I think it’s a pretty good event. It’s really fun, and kids can just enjoy,” Isaac said.

His mother said Isaac has been receiving chemotherapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

After more than three years of treatment, she said, he will be in remission in October.

Isaac is still deciding what his wish will be, but his mother said Sunday was just a way for him to have fun.

When Ernie Lowell — the man Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteers describe as “the heart behind the event” — proposed the benefit tractor pull four years ago, that’s just what he had in mind.

“Today, there is no needles, no nurses, no rehab, no doctors, no hospitals. Thank God for them all, but today is about fun,” he said.

In addition to all the tractor pull competitions the club participates in, Lowell said they have two “fun pulls” a year.

Sunday was one of them and club members were on hand, helping the children drive the tractors and cheer them on.

“This is incredible,” said Linda Jackson-Phillips, a wish-granting volunteer. “The support and dedication this club has for Make-A-Wish goes beyond words.”

She said the Maine chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation grants an average of one wish every five days. A wish costs about $6,000, and the nonprofit relies on donations and fundraisers.

“That’s why this event is so important to us,” she said.

For three years, James Taylor, 9, of Portland has been in remission from medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. In January, Make-A-Wish Foundation sent James and his family to Sea World in Florida.

“It was awesome,” said his mother, Jenn Taylor.

His father, Don Taylor, was impressed by the efforts of the club to pull such an event together.

“Without efforts of local clubs, I would hate to think some wishes wouldn’t be granted,” Don Taylor said.

While the tractor pull gave the children a morning of fun, it was an afternoon of competitive bidding that raised the money.

Club members and area businesses donated hundreds of items to be auctioned off, from hanging flower baskets and baked goods to a wooden swing and even two pigs.

The painting of a home was auctioned off for the sixth time to benefit children. It sold for $275 this year, the highest anyone has ever bid on it.

“It’s twofold, really. The children have a good time pulling the tractors, and they all get trophies. And the auction helps Make-A-Wish children,” Lowell said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]