Community rolls out green and yellow carpet for young cancer survivor

Colleen Kottke

ALGOMA -  After battling cancer for nearly half his life, leukemia was the furthest thing from Isaac Schneider's mind as he  navigated a mammoth John Deere harvester down a hayfield at Ebert Enterprises, a wide grin on his face.

Event organizer Millaine Wells addresses the Schneider family during the "Random Act of Light" event.

Driving the large green machine was a dream come true for the 6-year-old John Deere aficionado thanks to the concerted efforts of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), John Deere, Riesterer and Schnell, and the Farm Technology Days host family Ebert Enterprises and planning committees.

The surprise event for Isaac and his family was held under the John Deere tent on the Farm Technology Days site in Kewaunee County on July 10.  The organizers literally rolled out the "green and yellow " carpet for the Fond du Lac family — Christopher and Jennie Schneider and their children Micah, Isaac and Annaleigh.

"Thank you doesn't seem to be enough," Isaac's mother, Jennie Schneider told the crowd. "We are so grateful that all of these people came together to make a special day for him and to help him feel like a kid again."

The smile says it all as Isaac Schneider tests out this John Deere pedal tractor.

LLS officials sent out a call for partners to help deliver a "'Random Act of Light' for Isaac, which was answered with a resounding yes!

"The 'Random Act of Light' program is so new, in fact, this is the first event in the state and one of the first in the nation and we appreciate your help," said Megan Kreuter of LLS. "When there is a cancer diagnosis the patient is fighting but the family also fights, and that family is also in a dark time. So this helps to bring some light into someone's life."

Joy to despair

Jennie says she suspected something was wrong with 17-month-old Isaac when persistent ear infections failed to respond to treatment. Suspicious blood test results sent the young could down to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee where they learned that Isaac had leukemia.

"I had just found out two weeks earlier that I was pregnant," Jennie said. "A lot of people asked how we managed, but a lot of times it was our bright spot."

Christopher says it has been a difficult time for Isaac and the family as he endured nearly three years of treatment. A recent scan revealed that he has now been cancer-free for the past year.

Isaac Schneider's siblings Micah (left) and Annaleigh share his excitement during the "Random Act of Light" event at Farm Technology Days.

"It's nice to have something like this to help him forget about all those bad days in the hospital or having him being sick at home, and just him being able to be a kid again,"  Christopher said.

Green and Gold

The couple says their young son's passion for John Deere tractors is lifelong thanks to his great grandma and grandpa.

"Every weekend he's out there, riding with his grandpa," Christopher said. "We even have to hide the keys because he wants to drive himself!"

As the family headed north to Algoma, the kids were in the dark as to the surprise that awaited them.

Cancer survivor Isaac Schneider checks out the John Deere machinery.

"When Isaac saw the tents and the big tractors, his eyes lit right up. He couldn't get out of the car fast enough!" Jennie said with a laugh.

Nick Flies, territory sales manager for John Deere, said the company worked hand in hand with dealer Riesterer & Schnell to give Isaac a day to remember.

"In the end, we want him to know he's loved and to celebrate what he and his family has gone through," Flies said. "It's just awesome to have John Deere here to help feed his passion."

Honored guests

The Schneider family arrived to the event in style, riding in a motorcade of green and gold gators as they snaked their way through the 60-acre Tent City. The entourage was greeted with cheers as they arrived in front of the John Deere display.

As Isaac disembarked from the gator, he wandered from one piece of green and yellow machinery to the next, his eyes settling on the biggest tractor on the lot.

Inside the tent, Isaac was on the receiving end of a lot of John Deere merchandise including a pedal tractor, model tractors (one for Micah, too, and a bear for Annaleigh), official John Deere  clothing and a large John Deere quilt fashioned by Kewaunee County resident Darlene Boeder.

"I have 15 tractor quilts hanging in the toy building and I'm so proud to present this one to you," Boeder told Isaac.

The Schneider family arrives in style and to applause at Farm Technology Days.

After nibbling on miniature John Deere tractor cookies and sandwiches, the family headed out to the field to watch Isaac board the large John Deere harvester and steer it onto the field to chop hay. 

Ebert Enterprises owner Randy Ebert knows first hand of the importance of living life to its fullest and making each day count. Last year the Ebert's lost daughter, Britney, following complications from surgery.

"We're so busy and it's always go, go, go. But life is precious and we need to appreciate each day to its fullest," Randy said.

Although his calendar is brimming with activity this week, Waldo Riesterer says Tuesday's event was a top priority for him.

"I have a lot of things going on this week, but the highlight of my week was getting up this morning to come and do this today," Waldo said.

And while Isaac isn't a man of many words, his smile said volumes as he made up for lost time making new, happy memories.