August 5, 2013

Tractor pull benefits Make-A-Wish Maine kids

About 30 children with life-threatening medical conditions attend a festive fundraiser that draws 400 people.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SACO - Owen Winslow pedaled wildly on a miniature John Deere tractor Sunday surrounded by a ring of children pulling and urging him on.

click image to enlarge

Owen WInslow of Auburn, who had brain surgery nine weeks ago, pedals a tractor as the Southern Maine Garden Tractor Pulling Club holds its 6th annual fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Saco on Sunday.

Photos by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Paige Nadeau of Buxton drives a tractor. She and her brother Colby, 8, who also took part Sunday, have been diagnosed with catastrophic epilepsy.

There was no sign that the boy, son of Michelle and Jerry Winslow of Auburn, had undergone brain surgery just two months ago.

Owen was one of about 30 Make-A-Wish Maine children who were feted by the Southern Maine Garden Tractor Pulling Club at a fundraiser at a Boom Road farm along the Saco River. The club's vice president, Ernie Lowell, said it hoped to top the $10,800 raised last year.

"Boys and girls, they all love tractors," said Lowell.

This is the sixth year the club has hosted a tractor-pulling event for Make-A-Wish Maine, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Lowell said every year the event has grown. The first year about seven children showed up and the event made $1,300.

Today the fundraiser includes two auctions, a barbecue, music and an array of antique and custom vehicles and draws more than 400 people.

The club's child members donate the use of their garden tractors, many of them souped-up versions painted in neon colors and decorated with decals. The tractors send up a deafening roar as contestants pull heavy weights toward the finish line.

"This is amazing," said Stacey Turkington of Gray.

Turkington's daughter Delilah, 3, who has leukemia, was too young to ride in the tractor-pulling competition, which was fine with her older brother, Tristan, 6, who happily rode in her place.

"He was so excited, he was up at 5:30 this morning," said his mother.

Eileen Chretien, volunteer director of Make-A-Wish Maine, said the tractor club is an important benefactor of her organization. Make-A-Wish Maine grants a wish to a Maine child about every five days, which adds up to about 70 wishes a year. About half of the wishes are for a trip to Disney World, but some wishes may be as simple as a trip to a grandparent. The average cost of each wish is about $6,000, Chretien said.

"It is quite a lot of money and these kinds of events are key for us," Chretien said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

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