Showing cattle for a cause: Nebraska youth raising money for fellow showkid fighting cancer
Showing cattle is more than just earning a trophy or banner. Whether a kid stands at the top or the bottom of the class, participating youth are learning life skills — how to win or lose gracefully, how to feed, train and present a calf for evaluation, how to learn from mistakes and improve for next time and how to support and cheer on your peers.
Marie Ford, a 12-year old from Bertrand, Neb., exemplifies these life lessons in action. This summer, she’s on a mission to support a friend going through a challenging time, and she’s doing it with a steer named, “Todd.”
Todd is a Red Angus steer, formerly owned by Ford’s friend and classmate, Garrett Scholz, also of Bertrand. Scholz is currently battling a relapse of childhood leukemia, and while he fights for his life in a hospital bed, Ford is supporting her friend in the show ring, taking Todd on the road and giving all of his prize earnings back to Scholz to be used for his medical expenses.
“Garrett is a great friend, and I can’t even imagine what he is going through,” said Ford. “I also really want to help him so he can show again, get back to competing on the quiz bowl team with me and come back to school.”
In June, Ford took Todd to the North American Junior Red Angus Event (NAJRAE) at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb. This is her second year showing as a member of the Junior Red Angus Association of America (RAAA), and already, her peers and leaders in the organization have taken notice of Ford’s leadership and giving heart.
“Marie really exemplifies the type of youth that programs like RAAA aspires to produce,” said Kimberly Heller, RAAA junior program coordinator. “We use the cattle as an outlet to learn these life lessons and to go out and be great people. Marie is caring, thoughtful and responsible, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that she did something like this. She is such a sweetheart.”
So far this summer, Ford has attended the Bertrand Fair and the NAJRAE, and she’ll also exhibit Todd at the Phelps County Fair in Holdredge, Neb. Todd will sell at the community auction on July 25, and Ford will donate all of the proceeds to Scholz.
“The whole community has pitched in including the Midwest Livestock 4-H club,” said Ford. “We are making bracelets for Garrett. I also received money from out-of-state friends at the NAJRAE. Our 4-H club had a booth at the Bertrand Fair and raised some money there, as well. We have also had other donations from the community, and I don’t plan to stop there. I plan to keep collecting money and working on Todd, the steer, as much as I can.”
It’s been a long road for Garrett, who was initially diagnosed with leukemia on July 9, 2014.
“Garrett did the treatments and was in remission for a year-and-a-half,” said Garrett’s dad, Michael Scholz. “On October 12, 2018, he relapsed and has been in and out of the hospital since then.”
After a round of chemotherapy and total body radiation, Garrett received a bone marrow transplant in January. He’s spent the majority of the summer back in the hospital as he contends with complications following the transplant.
“Only 6% of bone marrow transplant patients experience what Garrett is going through right now, but we are hopeful that the new medicine we are trying will help him to feel better,” said Michael.
Of the community support, the Scholz family expresses much gratitude.
“Garrett and Marie are in the same class, and I used to work for Marie’s mom and dad, Sara and Michael, at the farm,” said Scholz. “My wife, Kim, and I have known the Ford family a long time, and it’s been fun over the years to watch our kids, who are both honor students, compete on the quiz bowl and show cattle together.”
Earlier this year, Scholz reached out to the Ford family about showing Todd. Since the NAJRAE was going to be held in Nebraska, they wanted to see the Red Angus steer go to a good home and be shown close to home.
“Since Todd is a Red Angus steer, we knew he would be eligible for NAJRAE in Grand Island, and we knew Marie would be showing there already,” said Scholz. “We thought Marie might be able to have some success with Todd, since Garrett wouldn’t be able to show him this summer. To see her out showing the steer means a lot to our family. And for a kid that age to think about doing something like this for her friend is just great. Those values have been instilled in her by wonderful parents, and we feel very grateful that her entire family has helped spearhead some fundraising efforts to support our family at this time.”
For Scott and Kim Ford, seeing their daughter emulate her strong faith, solid leadership skills and generous spirit is a good feeling.
“We are blessed as a family to have this opportunity to help the Scholz family,” said Scott. “I would like Marie to take this lesson and apply it throughout life, in terms of: how can I help others? There’s always someone out there who we can lift up — always through prayer, but often through other actions, too. A kind word, a meal, a helping hand or a steer named ‘Todd,’ can do a lot to make others know that they aren’t walking alone.”
And while the Scholz family fights cancer together in the hospital, the Ford family is working hard for Garrett in the show ring.
“We want to help Marie raise a good amount to help out with Garrett’s medical costs,” said Scott. “I can’t imagine, as a parent, going through this as a family. I, like Marie, want to help in any way, and this is something we can do to make things a bit easier and ease a bit of worry for Garrett’s family.”