Evansville youth sells pig, donates $10,070 for cancer research
A 15-year-old youth from Evansville wanted to help his teacher raise money for childhood cancer research and the community rallied behind him.
EVANSVILLE - Waylon Klitzman, 15, usually gives zucchini bread to the buyers of his animals at the Rock County 4-H Fair. This year he needed more zucchini bread.
His pig Roo, was sold four times for a total of more than $10,000, which Klitzman donated to Beat Nb, a not for profit fundraising group fighting neuroblastoma, one of the most common childhood cancers.
But the story began earlier this year when Klitzman, a sophomore at Evansville High School, discovered that one of his teachers, Kim Katzenmeyer, was leaving teaching after 22 years in order to dedicate her time to support Beat Nb after her 4-year-old niece, Harlow, had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
"Mrs. K was leaving," Klitzman said. "She meant a lot to me and I just couldn't see her leaving ... I just wanted to help."
The day after Katzenmeyer made her announcement, Klitzman showed up at school with the first donation — $52 in wadded up bills, all the money he had left from paying for one of his pigs.
His parents, Curt and Dawn, thought that would be the end of his interest, "his heart would be satisfied. Well it wasn't," said Dawn Klitzman.
Waylon Klitzman decided to plant a 3-acre pumpkin patch with his siblings and sell the pumpkins to raise money for Beat Nb. Yet, that still didn't satisfy his heart. The Rock County teen wanted to sell one of his pigs from his 4-H swine project at the fair and donate the proceeds for Harlow.
"How can you say no to a 15-year-old that wants to help?" Dawn Klitzman said.
When Klitzman went to the fair, the pig he had tagged for the donation didn't make weight and couldn't be sold in the public livestock auction, which meant he would have to find a private buyer for that pig to cover his project expenses.
"I still want to donate," he told his parents. "We'll figure out the rest later."
"He looked at us and we kind of shook our heads," said Dawn Klitzman. "It's a pretty incredible decision for a kiddo to make."
As Klitzman stood in front of bidders in the auction ring, he was nervous, "my legs were kind of giving out on me."
As the auctioneer introduced Klitzman, a member of the Evansville 4-H Club, he told the crowd of Klitzman's goal.
"Today he will be donating the money from the sale of his pig to Beat Nb in honor of a little girl in his community named Harlow Phillips. Harlow is currently being treated for neuroblastoma," the auctioneer explained. "She has had many treatments and has been in the hospital a lot in the last several months. She is only 4 years old. He wants to donate to Beat Nb to help find a cure for Harlow so she can just be a kid and not have to fight the beast anymore.”
The bidding started fast and furious with E&D Water Works of Janesville getting the winning bid at $11.50 a pound — and donated the pig back to be sold again.
Dan Drozdowicz, president and co-owner of E&D Water Works, figured he would get the price up to about $8 a pound, but a representative from Chambers and Owen, kept outbidding him. Drozdowicz pulled him aside and told him he planned to donate the pig back and then they could buy it a second time.
"The auctioneer had no clue that’s what my intention was," Drozdowicz said. "The price by that time had gone well over what even the grand champion barrow got."
Dawn Klitzman watched her son's smile, a grin from ear-to-ear, showing the pride of his accomplishment.
"I was pretty proud of him," she said. "When they sold it for the first time, I thought that was it, thought it was done. Not only did they pay for this one time, but they donated it back. Now they are going to bid on it again. People were just bidding and bidding, when it finally stopped, I just sat back and cried. I couldn’t believe that happened. And then they did it again."
The second buyer, Chambers and Owen, bought the pig for $10.25 per pound — and donated the pig back to the sale. The third round of bidding went to Moll Construction, Curt Klitzman's boss of 20 years, for $11 per pound.
"That was pretty neat, that he invested in our son's goal," added Dawn Klitzman.
Finally, Badger State Auction/East Point Pub, Rock County Pork Producers and Ott Schwietzer, et al, purchased the pig for $5.50 per pound to end the bidding. As the crowd erupted, Katzenmeyer looked over at Dawn Klitzman and saw her crying.
"It was so emotional. It was amazing," said Katzenmeyer. "I don’t think he had a clue his pig was going to go for $10,000. I think this was beyond anything he ever imagined."
Drozdowicz was glad he "could get the ball rolling" and that "other people in the community jumped on it."
E&D Water Works has been attending the 4-H meat sale for more than 40 years. When Drozdowicz learned what Klitzman planned to do with the money, he thought the auction would be a "great opportunity to participate in a fundraiser in a fun way."
"I was extremely proud that someone his age would come up with the whole idea on his own to do something like that," added Drozdowicz. "I think it brought awareness to something, and I think it made a lot of the other young 4-H kids think, that, wow, this can be a little bit bigger than just me."
Waylon Klitzman, his brother Wyatt and sister Rachel, who sold her turkey at the Stoughton Fair and donated $175 for Harlow, are taking good care of their pumpkin patch, hoping the pumpkins continue growing so they can sell them this fall and donate more to Beat Nb. Kliztman said his ag teacher "has a couple of ideas" for the sale.
"I think we're going to sell them all at homecoming," said Klitzman. "We'll have to figure that out."
Klitzman is a quiet, modest guy. He didn't want any pre-auction hype, sending out letters to the people he normally contacts for the fair, keeping his intent to help Harlow quiet.
"He did what he set out to do and it got bigger than he ever thought it would," said Dawn Klitzman.
"What he did was incredible," Katzenmeyer said. "He keeps telling his mom, I’m not that special. I just wanted to do something to help. He is so humble and sweet."
Over the past couple of months Klitzman got to know Harlow's family.
"They are really, really nice people and I just want to do whatever to help," Klitzman said modestly.
When Katzenmeyer's niece, Harlow Phillips, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma the day before her fourth birthday, Katzenmeyer had spent the previous year watching her mom fight neuroendocrine cancer.
"I just felt numb," said Katzenmeyer. "I felt like there was nothing I could do."
She spent the year feeling like she was living in a fog. Wanting to do more than sell T-shirts to raise money, she decided it was time to do something different, even if it meant leaving her students.
"This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make, because I felt like I was letting kids down at school," added Katzenmeyer. "But I told them that the only kids that would take me away from my kids at school was my family."
Since Harlow's diagnosis, she has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove most of the tumor, two stem cell transplants, 20 rounds of radiation and was starting immunotherapy when she began reacting to one of drugs in immunotherapy. The side effects from the blood transfusions and stem cell transplants resulted in a rare condition with her kidneys that has to be treated before moving forward with immunotherapy.
Neuroblastoma is a solid mass tumor, which affects more than 650 children a year in the U.S., according to the Beat Nb website. It's one of the most common childhood tumors, typically affecting children under 5.
Survival rates with standard chemotherapy are less than 60 percent, but there is a 50 percent relapse rate and once relapsed, there is no curative treatment. For children under 5-years-old who relapse, the survival rate is less than 10 percent, according to Beat Nb.
Harlow has no evidence of disease right now, "but really needs to complete the immunotherapy," Katzenmeyer pointed out. Beat Nb is funding research to make safer medications in fighting neuroblastoma and medications that will prevent relapses.
"Research doesn't get a lot of funding and it takes a long time," Katzenmeyer said. "There is no guarantee that I can make any money—I just felt like I had to do something and this is it."
To learn more visit https://beatnb.org/. To follow Harlow's journey visit https://www.facebook.com/HarlowStrong-1539618086130153/