Bright pink restored Ford 8N tractor raises funds for cancer
Cancer seems to touch everyone's lives in one way or another. Those who haven't suffered from some form of cancer know someone who has.
It's not uncommon to see pink ribbons, t-shirts and banners intended to create breast cancer awareness.
The ribbons are intended to alert people to the importance of check-ups, cancer-screenings and being aware of the early warning signs. They are also a way to generate income to assist those whose cancer has led to a need for financial assistance.
Among the nearly 1000 tractors crossing the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan on Friday, Sept. 5, was a bright pink restored Ford 8N tractor that will eventually be sold to raise money for the Jefferson County Cancer Coalition.
The tractor is owned by Kevin Pontel, owner of Farmboy Customs, a tractor painting and repair shop just outside Whitewater.
Pontel has devoted many hours of his time and his own dollars to the project, inspired by his high-school friend Sarah Garde who found out first-hand what it's like to suffer from breast cancer.
He says, "I could donate cash to this cause, but I felt I could give them so much more if I'd use that cash to create something that has much greater value when it's done."
The Jefferson County Cancer Coalition is a non-profit organization that will provide financial assistance to cancer victims and their families in the county.
The group is strictly volunteers and holds a variety of fund-raising events such as a Witches Night, a Tough Mudder and the Annual Frosty Pink Ball Golf Outing.
The group also asks Jefferson County businesses for their support, either through monetary donations or by holding events on the behalf of the Coalition.
Garde says examples of the benefits that people may receive are gas cards for travel expenses to and from treatments or doctor visits and paying for costly prescription or other types of financial need deemed necessary by the board of directors to help clients while fighting cancer.
Benefits are distributed via a voucher. There are no cash payouts. Funds are available to anyone residing in Jefferson County who is currently diagnosed with cancer and seeking medical care.
Garde says she got involved with the Coalition soon after she completed her treatments because she then realized how important it is to have something like this available.
When she visited with people at St. Ignace following the tractor parade across the bridge she offered words of encouragement to those who told her of their cancer experiences.
Garde says, "When people see this pink tractor you can tell which ones have been touched by this disease. They are the ones who see it and immediately 'get it'. They know what we're trying to do here."
LOVE FOR TRACTORS
Pontel learned of his friend's cancer via their connection on Facebook. He says, "I had been thinking about doing some type of work for a worthy cause and then when I learned from Sarah about the Coalition I knew I had found a cause."
His passion for tractors developed as he was growing up on a farm. His dad collected John Deere tractors and Kevin had a natural talent at painting and repairing.
Pontel's main focus is providing his customers with tractor repair, painting and restoration services. Whether it's an antique or an everyday workhorse, he will take on the job.
His facilities near Whitewater are equipped with a full downdraft paint booth and he has the ability to use several different types of paints depending on the cost and quality desired by his customers.
While his main passion is painting, he is also experienced at mechanical work involved with repairing and restoring tractors.
Pontel says, "I went to the Farm and Industry Short Course with the intentions of farming. It's what I really love to do."
He began farming on about 250 acres of land but the strong competition for renting land in the area made it difficult to acquire more land to work and 250 acres was not enough to make a living at cash cropping.
Because of his talents restoring tractors, his friends urged him to turn it into a business.
Pontel says, "We love what we do, having the ability to turn yesterday's tractors into today's memories is what drives us and keeps us passionate about our work."
He says he really enjoys taking a tractor that is down and out, like the 1950 model 8N Ford that he is working on for the benefit of the Cancer Coalition, and restoring it to its former glory.
As he began to customize the tractor he used a plasma cutter to cut out the symbolic ribbons on the wheels. He plans to cut them out on the foot platform as well and also add some pink metal ribbons to the steering wheel.
Pontel has a few other things to do to complete the restoration before offering it for auction in January at a national collector car auction at Scottsdale, AZ, that is known for featuring unique custom vehicles that are sold for the benefit of charities.
In the mean time, he and Sarah are travelling around with the tractor, drawing attention to the effort.
In the process they gained the attention of several Green Bay Packers and former Packers who signed a panel on the tractor. He hopes to collect a few more signatures on the other panel before the time of the auction.