MIDDLEBURY - When Ken VanDeWeert was suffering from ALS, a fatal neurological disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, members of his community came together to help ease some the family's struggles. In addition, they were also able to help realize a life-long dream of Ken's. The anonymous gifts enabled Ken and his family to embark on a cross-country excursion. Ken lost his battle with ALS in August 2003 at the age of 47.
Those memories, and the gratitude his family felt for the assistance in their time of need led them to seek a way to give back to the community in much the same way. Ken's son Jason, and his brother Tim decided to focus on a part of Ken's life that he and his family most enjoyed - tractor pulling - to raise money for people in need of a little extra help to get through a trying time. Ken was an avid tractor puller and well known to participants and fans of the event. "It's amazing what people are able to do and will do for others", says committee member Danielle Dragon. "This is a fun way to give back and touch other people like Ken and his family were touched."
The Addison County Benefit Truck and Tractor Pull is now in it's fifth year and has raised approximately $90,000 to help various Addison County families during times of serious struggle with disease or serious and tragic accidents. This past year, they were able to help six families, and the event is growing each year. The Middlebury Lion's Club has been instrumental in their fundraising mission, endorsing and supporting the event by donating a portion of the proceeds from their food concession at the tractor pulling events. In addition to their donations over the past five years to the Addison County Benefit Pull, the Lions Club has been able to use the rest of their proceeds generated from the event to further their own cause as a club, assisting other groups and individuals in the community.
"It's a great event and it is truly amazing what we've been able to do with community help," says Dragon, who advises people who would like more information on the event or about the families they have helped to check out their website at www.addisoncountybenefitpull.com.