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Farm show, John Deere team up to surprise 6-year-old cancer survivor

Progressive Dairyman Writer Jaclyn Krymowski Published on 17 August 2017
Isaac Schneider, cancer survivor

On July 10, 2017, a small ray of sunshine made the world a little brighter place for one little boy. Isaac Schneider, a 6-year-old leukemia survivor and avid John Deere fan, enjoyed an event of a lifetime.

Isaac, the middle child of three, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just a year old. Three years of his young life were spent undergoing exhaustive treatments. Just recently, he received a clean bill of health from the doctors, and his mother reports he will be moving on to the survivorship clinic. Once he reaches five years post-diagnosis, he will be in what is considered lifelong remission.

During his time of treatment, Isaac was very limited in what he could do. Things like spending time with friends or going on family outings were very restrictive due to the fragile state of his immune system. Riding on the old Johnny Poppers and skid steers with his grandpa around the family farm became an escape for him. “He absolutely loves tractors. It was one of the few things he could do when he was on treatment,” his mother, Jennie Schneider, says. “It was something he could do to feel like a normal kid and have some fun. That’s always been his thing – he just loves John Deere.”

Even in the midst of a daily battle, Isaac and his family looked at their situation as an opportunity to give back to others. They helped raise awareness for children like him by working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual campaign. Isaac was honored as the 2017 LLS Boy of the Year.

Isaac Schneider riding toy tractor

As a thank you and appreciation, the LLS reached out to the publicity committee for Wisconsin Farm Technology (WFT) Days, the state’s largest outdoor agriculture show, which was hosted this year at Ebert Enterprises’ dairy farm in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, in early July. They wanted to give back and surprise Isaac with a special day filled with something he loved the most – green tractors.

The committee quickly shared the request with the local John Deere dealership, Riesterer and Schnell, as well as the John Deere Corp. to host the event in their green-and-yellow-filled tent at the farm the day before the show officially opened.

“When the opportunity presented itself, we thought what an awesome way to give something special to Isaac, who has been through so much. He has touched the lives of so many around him with his courage and spirit,” Waldo Riesterer, general manager at Riesterer and Schnell, says. “How could you not want to be part of that? We are so grateful we had the opportunity to make a difference for him and his family.”

The WFT Days committee from Kewaunee County, Ebert Enterprises and Barnsite Retreat & Events Center also joined in to sponsor the special celebration. According to Kristy Pagel, a WFT executive committee publicity liaison, this event, of which over 150 people attended, was the first of LLS’s “Random Act of Light” program to ever take place in Wisconsin. Pagel recalls seeing Isaac’s joy that day. “That smile will be forever embedded in my heart,” she says.

Riesterer shared those sentiments, adding, “The most rewarding part of hosting this event was seeing the smile and bright eyes of Isaac when he arrived at the John Deere display, scanning and testing the seats on all the green and yellow John Deere equipment.”

The event was a total surprise for both Isaac and his family. They were initially invited for a private viewing of the tractors but had no idea of the day ahead of them. “We turned the corner and started seeing all these tractors; his eyes were bigger than I’ve ever seen them,” Jennie says. “As soon as we got out of the car, I don’t think he ever looked back at my husband and I. It definitely put a smile on all our faces.”

Schneider family

Isaac was treated to a day bigger than he could have imagined. His mother reports one of the major highlights of his day was the chance for him to “drive” a chopper. “He hasn’t stopped talking about it for the past week,” she says. He also received John Deere toys and a personalized pedal tractor of his own. Coupled with news and media coverage, Isaac felt like a celebrity.

Jennie says the event was an amazing experience for their whole family, especially Isaac. “It’s been such an amazing thing for him. It just made him feel like a kid again. It gave him a reason to feel special and not different than he’s used to,” she says. The opportunity gave them a day to celebrate without having to deal with their usual reservations and concerns. “What they did for us was just amazing,” Jennie says. “It was the first time we were able to see him with eyes wide open and just having fun and being a kid where we didn’t have to worry about the usual stuff.”

The day was a touching one for everyone, especially for the Schneiders. “We’re just really grateful for everybody and everything they did,” Jennie says. “It made us love the farming community even more; I didn’t think that was possible since we’ve grown up in it and always loved it. Now we hope to turn around and give back to more people and spread those random acts of light.”  end mark

Jaclyn Krymowski is a 2017 Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

PHOTO 1: Six-year-old Isaac Schneider has battled cancer since he was a year old. His family is excited to see him moving to the survivorship clinic and getting closer to being declared in lifelong remission.

PHOTO 2: Isaac test rides his new pedal tractor donated by John Deere.

PHOTO 3: The day was a surprise to the entire Schneider family. From left to right: Micah (8), mother Jennie, Annaleigh (4), Isaac (6) and father Christopher. Photos provided by Aerica Bjurstrom.

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