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Pulling for a Cause

Dunkirk tractor pull seeks 2K for Johns Hopkins

Chesapeake Garden Tractor Pullers compete see whose lawn tractor can pull 3,000 pounds the farthest to raise funds for the Pediatric Oncology unit at Johns Hopkins. Bay Weekly reporter Ashley Brotherton, above, came in second in her class.

Pullers, start your engines.    
    Pullers from across the state, some farther, are rallying to that call on Sept. 15 for the sake of sport and to raise money for Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology.
    Sport came before cause for the Chesapeake Garden Tractor Pullers, of Dunkirk. The sport: pulling 3,000 pounds as far as their garden tractors will let them.

The Cause
    The club added fundraising when club president Clyde Schuyler’s grandson, Craig Beck, then 10 years old, was diagnosed with Leukemia. The first year, The Garden Tractor Pullers raised $2,800 to help Schuyler’s daughter meet the costs of driving the 80 miles from her home in Rock Hall to Johns Hopkins. It was costing an “arm and a leg,” Schuyler said.
    After three years, with hospital visits down to one or two a year, Schuyler switched the pullers’ donation to the Pediatric Oncology unit to buy toys for the kids who spend hours inside the walls of the outpatient treatment center.
    Today, seven years later, Craig Beck is in 100 percent remission.
    “To see my grandson with every bit of life drained out of him and to see what they did for him, he looks like the boy he should have been,” Schuyler said. “Now, he just wants to play all the ball he can play.”

The Sport
    Pullers compete in a seven-month season for points and pride. Each meet is a daylong event, divided into as many as 16 classes, depending on engine type, size and power, plus age of drivers. Kids as young as how old compete with men up to what age. Girls and women, too. And you don’t have to bring your own tractor.
    So I signed up.
    First, you throw your tractor into gear and push down the throttle. Reaching speeds of maybe seven mph, you pull as far as the red clay track lets you. When your tires dig into the track and can’t move another inch, the pull is measured. Who ever goes the farthest wins the class.
    My first pull was atrocious. I made it 70 feet on the 300-foot track. After lunch and studying the pullers that followed me, I went confident to my second turn on the track. When I blew past the 70-foot marker without a sweat, I knew I was going the distance.
    The crowd of about 30 cheered until I passed the 300-foot marker, meaning I had a full pull. A cone marked my ending point, because the tape measure stops at 300 feet. I was officially in first place for the biggest class of the day. I had beat the first six pullers before me; only five more pullers followed.
    I haven’t felt that kind of adrenaline since my days as a competitive cheerleader. I chewed my fingernails as each puller fell short of my cone.
    Only the last puller beat my mark. By a few inches, I slipped into second place. Not bad, I thought, after the initial disappointment. The moral of my story: No matter your experience, age or strength, you can be a champion puller. I’ve got a trophy on my office desk to prove it.

Join the Fun or Send a Check
    As benefit day approaches, Schuyler becomes a different person. He gets greedy. He wants as much money as he can get for Johns Hopkins. After only raising $800 last year, Schuyler set this year’s goal at $2,000.
    Drop by to see the fun and join the competition, Saturday, Sept. 15, from when to when, at 230 Jewel Rd., Dunkirk. If you can’t come, send a check: Chesapeake Garden Tractor Pullers, Hopkins Benefit Pull, 1180 Marlboro Rd. Lothian, MD 20711. Info: 410-741-9440; www.cgtp.webs.com.

This is for a great cause. Pull starts at 11:00 am and is free to the public. Stop by and help Johns Hopkins.