Effort led by Cattleman’s Association brings community together to aid young local farmer

Posted October 27, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Asberry's Wheels.psd

By Steve Peddicord

President, Twin Lakes

Cattleman’s Association

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet was once quoted as saying, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Although the fundraising project for John Asberry’s Trackchair was never actually looked at as impossible until it was done, John was still faced with the same challenges of using an ordinary wheelchair to do unordinary things.

John Asberry was born with spina bifida, which is a deformity of the spinal cord affecting the nerves going to the lower half of the body. In short, it causes extreme weakness in the legs. It has no cure. It relegates individuals with this condition to a wheelchair for daily activities.

But this scenario is exactly where spina bifida met its challenge, because John, from an early age, was determined this set back would not slow him down. Unordinary daily activities are the basis for an ordinary day in the life of John Asberry.

“I just like doing a lot of different things. I raise a lot of different kinds of animals, turkeys, goats, baby bottle calves, and just about anything. I grow lots of different plants and garden foods, I sell mums and gourds in the fall, and I do woodworking projects also when the weather is bad and I can’t get outside,” said John.

John’s parents Donnie and Billie Joyce have always been supportive of John’s interest and encouraged him to not look at himself as handicapped. “John is just a normal child in our mind that has some unnormal things to overcome. His work ethic is unmatched compared to many 26 year olds I see today,” notes Billie Joyce.

Being a 26 year-old young man with lots of work interests, along with Billie Joyce and Donnie approaching retirement age, the stage was quickly being set for the need to get John a more applicable device so he could get around and do the things he does.

“We decided to put together a You.tube video with the help of a lot of John’s friends to share the need in the community. The cost to get the type chair John needed was very high. Some he had looked at were between $15,000 – $20,000. We put the video on Facebook, and got lots of caring comments and interest, but we really didn’t have an organized way to coordinate the whole project and make it work. Everyone wanted to help, but we just didn’t know where to start. It looked impossible to be honest. But you know God had a plan. He was way ahead of us and we were just catching up!” added Billie Joyce.

About this same time, on the other side of Clinton County, a set of twin calves were about to be born on our farm (Steve and Dr. Carol Peddicord of Albany). It was the middle of fall calving season, and our herd of Gelbvieh cows were cranking out baby calves right and left with no problems. That is until the morning of August 27.

I went out to check the cows early that morning and I noticed one cow had a pair of nice red twin male calves. I’ve never been a fan of twin calves because most momma cows either won’t take them both, or simply can’t raise two.

This was one of my better Balancer cows but I could see real quick she would not accept one of the calves. When this happens, the only thing to do is to first get some colostrum into the calf as soon as possible and then find a good home for it.

I’ve done the bottle calf route before, but I didn’t really want to start that with this one. I guess I’m getting old! (laughs).

I took a photo of the calf and decided to put it on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in a bottle calf. I was hoping just to get a call. I was surprised to get 43 calls that day! Next year I may just sell all bottle calves and go fishing.

The first person that saw the ad on Facebook that morning was John’s mother. “I called Steve and told him John was wanting a bottle calf because he had just lost one a few weeks earlier and already had the supplies,” said Billie.

I knew John a little bit from seeing him at church, but didn’t really know him. It wasn’t really about making money on the calf, I just wanted him to go to a good home and make it. So I told Billie Joyce he could have it for $25 and I’d even bring it to them.

The funny thing was I had just watched the You.tube video of John the night before. I was actually going to call and see if we could donate some money or help in any way. Never did I dream how things were unfolding.

So I delivered the calf to John, and while we were walking to the little barn he was going to raise the calf in, I noticed how wet and slippery the grass was. I also noticed John was having trouble maneuvering his wheel chair. So I asked John the silly question, “Have you even tipped over in that wheelchair out here in the field?

“Oh yes”, replied John, “all the time.”

So how do you get back up? I asked.

“Well I usually have to call my Mom or Dad to come get me up,” said John. “But the problem now is they are getting older and it’s getting harder to raise me back up.”

I immediately thought to myself that this was not good. Something had to be done. Here was a young man trying to do things that most normal people take for granted. Plus he was trying to do these things with a tremendous amount of risk and challenge. He needed a safer device that would afford him the opportunity to be more independent.

What was needed at this point was some type of group or organization to coordinate a fundraising opportunity to get John a safer device. Because of John’s interest in animals, and now with a new bottle calf to raise, the Twin Lakes Cattleman’s Association (TLCA) seemed like to me to be a viable option. Being the current President of TLCA, and knowing how we could coordinate some fundraising activities, I asked John and his parents if they would like for us to spearhead this project.

Everyone agreed this looked like a good plan and would be our best shot at trying to raise the money needed to buy the Trackchair.

As far as what type of device he needed, what it was going to cost, and where to start looking for one, I honestly had no idea. We had made a few comments back and forth on John’s Facebook page but nothing really significant.

Then, later that night I got a call from Bro. Jim Daniels who is pastor of the Mill Springs Christian Church. Brother Jim saw the conversation on Facebook, was interested, and said they would help in any way. Then he mentioned to me they had a member in their church, Greg West, that was a distributor for All-Terrain wheelchairs. His daughter had recently received one and he could get whatever John needed.

At this point what looked “impossible” was beginning to look much more “possible.” At least it became an opportunity for John to begin exploring the different types of All-terrain wheelchair options that were available.

The next step in the process was for John and Greg to get together and determine exactly what type of device John needed. They met at the Asberry farm, looked over John’s activities and selected a Trackchair and covered carrier that would work. The estimated cost was about $16,000. The goal had now been set. It was time now to get the word out, get some fundraising ideas together, and make this happen for John.

I told Billie Joyce and Donnie upfront we were going to start September 1st and do this for 30 days only. At that point we would wrap it up and see where we were. I don’t like to drag things out, and believe in getting things done and moving on to the next project. Let’s make it happen.

The TLCA developed a three tier plan to try and generate the needed $16,000.

Tier #1 was to accept donations from anyone who wanted to make a cash donation.

Secondly, TLCA and its members would host a cooking event in Albany to accept donations. Beef filet sandwiches and hamburgers would be grilled by the cooking team during the one day cooking event.

Thirdly, a raffle would be established to give away door prizes and help raise money.

All donations and funds collected were though the TLCA. Likewise all expenses, including the purchase of the Trackchair itself, were handled by the association.

Over the next 26 days, enough money was collected to completely pay for the new Trackchair and carrier, cover all food and advertising expenses, and provide an additional 25 door prizes to the original 15 donated by individuals and businesses.

“It’s just been amazing and beyond our expectations,” rejoiced Billie Joyce. “God has not only blessed us, but has blessed our community, church, and everyone that had a part in making this a reality for John. We will forever be indebted for everyone’s kindness. God is good,” added Billie Joyce.

And now for John the work begins with a new way of getting things done.

As he motors out in his new device to bottle feed “Doc” (the red bottle calf) John replies, “ I really want to thank everyone for what they have done. Words can’t express what this means to me and my family,” noted an excited John. “I can be much more independent now and I want to be able to help those people that have helped me too!”

So now that it is “done”, the impossible is nowhere to be found. A community, family, and friends saw a need to make a person’s life more possible….and made it happen.