Tractor drivers come out for a good cause

Annual 18-mile ride raises money for local person in need

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OMRO, Wis. – Every summer for the last 13 years, tractor owners in the Omro area have come together to ride for a good reason. Helping a member of the community who is in great need of financial and moral support is the goal of the Ridin’ for a Reason fundraiser.
“If we can help someone and have fun doing it, it’s a great day,” said Lewis Hintz, one of the event’s founders and host. “Every year, we help someone new.”
On July 16, tractors lined up to show their support for a fellow friend in need – Craig Challoner – who is fighting pancreatic cancer.
“He has a lot of friends in Omro,” Hintz said. “His father was a large animal veterinarian and very well known in the area.”
Russ Kleinschmidt and Bill Carpenter help Hintz put on the event each year. Carpenter was the Ridin’ for a Reason’s first beneficiary.
“The year we started it, Bill’s house burned down,” Hintz said. “If someone has a problem in our county, we try to help out, so we came up with this idea. The first year, we had 14 tractors and grew from there.”
Tractors departed at 11 a.m. for the 18-mile ride which takes about two hours. There is no entrance fee. Instead, a free-will donation is taken up. The event typically draws around 200 people and starts and ends at Hintz’s place. A silent auction, 50/50 raffle and potluck picnic are also part of the day’s festivities.
“This year’s Ridin’ For a Reason was really a good success,” Kleinschmidt said. “We had a great day, and the weather was beautiful. Craig has a couple tractors and even felt good enough to drive for a bit. He started the ride and went about 3 miles, and his brother took over when he got tired. At the end, they swapped out again, so Craig could finish the ride.”
Dairy farmer Kevin Krentz has participated in the event nearly every year since it began. Last year, Krentz’s nephew was the recipient of the money.
“I’ve been doing this for many years,” he said. “Either my son or I drive the tractor. It’s a great event for a great cause, and the turnout is amazing some years.”
Krentz, who milks 600 cows and farms 1,400 acres near Berlin, could not make it to this year’s event, so a neighbor drove his tractor for him – a John Deere 6175R. Krentz said it is a utility tractor that he uses for spraying and hauling manure.
“It’s amazing how many people will either pull over and watch, or come out of their houses with lawn chairs and bring the kids out to see the parade of tractors go by,” Krentz said. “It’s really nice to see everyone waving at you and having fun watching everything.”
Krentz also sometimes drives a John Deere 6170R that Hintz signed after going with Krentz to the factory to watch it get built. Krentz moves bales and does a lot of hay mowing and grass cutting with the tractor as well as fertilizer application and corn planting.
“This is an example of community coming together and is a great opportunity for the whole neighborhood to unite for something special,” Krentz said.
Krentz plans to partake in the event again next year.
“It’s also an opportunity to enjoy some commonality, laughs and have some fun all for a good cause,” he said. “The event is really popular in the community.”
Dairy farmer Rob Stone, who milks 70 cows and farms 350 acres near Omro, helped park cars at the event.  
“Craig is my cousin so I wanted to help this year with parking and in any other way I could,” Stone said. “It was my first year volunteering because I could never find the time before. But since it was for my cousin, I said I would do it. Now that I’ve gone to it and seen what this event is all about, I’ll park cars every year. It’s a great fundraiser.”
Stone stayed for the picnic and raffle as he enjoyed catching up with his cousins and neighbors.
“The whole day was great,” he said. “When I went home to milk cows, there was still a crowd gathered.”
This year’s event raised more than $7,000 for Challoner.
“We certainly helped him financially, but the moral support and friendship shown was also huge,” Kleinschmidt said.
Stone agreed.
“The amount of money is almost secondary to the people that showed,” he said. “Craig’s high school classmates and people from his work came. Money helps, but the support you get and see that you have behind you is really what gets it going and keeps it going. I’m a cancer survivor myself, so I know a little bit about that part.”
This year, 33 tractors participated in Ridin’ For a Reason. From full-time to part-time farmers to plain old tractor enthusiasts, the ride attracts a mix of drivers, including many retired dairy farmers. Drivers this year ranged in age from 18 to 92. Hintz, Kleinschmidt and Carpenter also drive a tractor in the event. Typically, there are 60 to 70 tractors in the ride.
This year, however, Kleinschmidt, who drives an International 806 in the fundraiser, said the number was lower.
 “We did have eight or nine new riders this year,” he said. “(But) I think the economy and the price of gas had an effect. It was still a good ride, and we had a record number of people for our hayride.”
Challoner is a registered nurse, and many fellow nurses and hospital staff showed up to support him. This year, the event filled four kicker wagons of people who went along for the ride.
“We always take the same roads but never the same direction or same path,” Kleinschmidt said.
Everything from new to old can be seen along the route. Kleinschmidt said the oldest tractor this year was probably a mid-1940s vintage two-cylinder John Deere. The majority are 1960s classic vintage tractors like 706 and 1206 Internationals and John Deere 4020s.
“Each year, this event gains a little more momentum,” Kleinschmidt said. “Although tractor numbers were down, other things were better, like donations. We’re really lucky to have a lot of support in the area. I’m blessed in my life, and I think that all of us in some way benefit when we can give back and hopefully make the life of someone who is struggling a little better.”
Hintz agreed.
“There’s always somebody who’s hurting, so it’s nice to be able to help them,” he said. “This fundraiser is a good thing.”

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