September 17, 2007
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
NEW HAVEN — Engines were roaring and smoke was billowing at the tractor pull held at the Addison County Field Days fairground in New Haven on Sept. 7 and 8. The 150 competitors and many more spectators where there to have a good time, but there was a serious purpose behind it all.
The second annual Addison County Benefit Truck and Tractor Pull raised at least $7,000 for a Middlebury teen with cancer and a widow with local ties who recently suffered a serious motorcycle accident.
The event, like the first annual event last year, was organized by friends and family of Donald and Kenneth Van De Weert, two local brothers who both died within the past five years.
“We decided to do something to remember them by and give back to the community a little bit,” said Tim Van De Weert of Ferrisburgh, a brother of Don and Ken. “If we can help people out, it just makes us feel good.”
Tim Van De Weert, 45, did not know exactly how much money had been raised as the Addison Independent went to press since he and the other organizers were still receiving donations and paying the bills from the event, but he estimated that at least $14,000 had been raised. That money will be divided between Jamie Kosloski and Deidra Cass.
Fourteen-year-old Kosloski of Middlebury is suffering from pontine glioma, a form of brain cancer. The disease began with headaches and tripping, but tests finally revealed a tumor on his brain stem.
He had several radiation treatments in December 2006 and January 2007, and has been making frequent trips to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for chemotherapy since then. The funds will help him and his parents, Bill and Tracy Jackson, with the treatments, Van De Weert said.
Cass, 37, does not live in the area, but she has family who does. The Horsham, Pa., resident is the sister-in-law of Roger and Patty Scholten of Weybridge. In May 2006 Cass’s husband, John Charles Cass, died of a stroke during heart surgery, leaving behind his wife, three children and another child on the way.
A year after that, Deidra Cass was in a motorcycle accident. She is now going through physical therapy while raising her four children, who range from one to seven years old.
The pulling extravaganza to raise money for Kosloski and Cass began on the evening of Friday, Sept. 7, but most classes of tractors competed on Saturday, Sept. 8. Van De Weert did not know exactly how many people had entered, but estimated there were 150 competitors. There were 486 hitches, counting all categories.
Prizes ranged from $100 to $500 for competitors in the top three categories, but Van De Weert said that many of the winners chose to only accept the plaques and add the money to what was being raised.
A number of volunteers made the event possible, but Van De Weert said that the Vermont Tractor Pullers Association, the Weybridge and New Haven fire departments, the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad and Wayne Smith went above and beyond in helping out.
Jason Van De Weert, the son of Ken Van De Weert, also helped organize the event and competed in a few classes. He said that a tractor pull was a very fitting way to remember his father and uncle, since they both enjoyed participating in them while they were alive.
“We have a good time doing it,” Jason said. “People look forward to it every year in the fall.”
The family got the idea from the help that Ken Van De Weert received before he died five years ago of complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The family received a lot of help from the community, and they saw the benefit tractor pulls as a way to repay that assistance by helping someone else. “When my father was sick years ago, people raised a lot of money for him,” Jason said.
The Van De Weerts first discussed having a tractor pull after Ken’s death. It took a couple years to get started, but now that it has, they hope to keep on doing it annually, picking a local family or individual in need to raise money for.
“It all depends on how much community support we have,” Tim Van De Weert said. “There’s no limit to how far we can go.”