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Columbus teen wows the crowd at the Dodge County Fair
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Columbus teen wows the crowd at the Dodge County Fair

Surprise announcement

Samantha Zander of Columbus is embraced by her mother Janet following a surprise announcement Aug. 16 at the Dodge County Junior Fair Meat Animal Sale. Their neighbor, Ty Thorson, is donating the proceeds of the sale of his market hog to Samantha, who is battling breast cancer.

The 4-H Pledge reads, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

One Astico Perseverance 4-H Club member showed he knows the meaning of those words during Thursday night’s Meat Animal Sale at the Dodge County Fair.

The packed crowd in the Farm Progress Arena collectively gasped when the auctioneer read a note before a market hog was brought to the auction stage.

Ty Thorson, a 13-year-old from Columbus, wished to donate the entire proceeds of the sale of his 279-pound Gilt hog to his neighbor and friend, Samantha Zander, who is battling breast cancer.

Thorson wrote that Zander, now 30, grew up exhibiting hogs in 4-H and still participates in Open Class photography at the fair. He said the Zander family has been active for many years in 4-H and has provided kids with a strong foundation through leadership. He asked that Dodge County give back to one of its 4-H families.

“This is what makes farm families great. This is what it’s all about,” commented the auctioneer.

Hog is auctioned off

Ty Thorson, 13, of Columbus shows his Gilt market hog Aug. 16 at the Dodge County Junior Fair Meat Animal Sale. Before the hog was auctioned off, bidders were told the young man was donating the proceeds to a neighbor fighting cancer. The hog fetched $30 per pound.

And that’s all it took for the bidding to go fast and furious.

The bidding opened at $10 per pound. It quickly jumped to $17, then $20, then $25. After a brief discussion among bidders, it was announced that Universal Co-op of Lebanon and Iconic Energy of Beaver Dam were pulling together. The two companies sealed the sale with a bid of $30 per pound.

The price for that one pig was $8,370.

Hog buyers

The highlight of the Meat Animal Sale Aug. 16 at the Dodge County Fair was the sale of Ty Thorson's market hog. From left are Robert Feldman of Universal Co-op, Fairest of the Fair Kennedy Ferron, Samantha Zander, Thorson, Teague Dickey and Mark Mitchell of Iconic Energy. Feldman and Dickey's businesses pooled together to buy the hog for more than $8,000, and Thorson donated all the proceeds to Zander, his neighbor who is battling cancer.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Zander said through tears. “I’m shocked.”

Zander said she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer after finding a lump in early June.

“It’s an aggressive cancer that can grow quickly and be difficult to treat because it’s not hormonal based,” she said. “I was taken aback when I was diagnosed and didn’t know what to think or do because I’m a very healthy person and it’s not something you expect to hear at 30 years old.

“My next initial thought was I have to beat this, I have to fight this because I have a 2-year-old daughter and she means the world to me. I’m getting married next year and it’s a lot to process.”

Zander will undergo chemotherapy Sept. 9 and then have surgery, followed by radiation.

“I have a huge support system, but a rough road financially, medically and physically ahead of me,” she said. “It’s just amazing what Ty did for me.”

Ty is the son of Alan and Heidi Thorson. He said the decision to donate to Zander was easy and one his parents supported.

“My mom asked, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘Let’s do this!’” he said. “After I heard Sam had cancer, I realized this was going to be a large cost for her. I needed to do some good for some people who have done so much for 4-H in the Dodge County community over the years.”

Ty has been showing animals at the fair for a number of years. He said in the past, his pigs have sold for $3 per pound.

“Tonight’s price was crazy. The money would have gone to my college fund, but now it’s going to a way better cause than that,” he said. “It feels good to help her.”

After the auction

Samantha Zander and Ty Thorson meet in the swine barn following the Aug. 16 Meat Animal Sale at the Dodge County Fair. Thorson donated the proceeds from the sale of his market hog to Zander, a neighbor who is battling breast cancer.

Zander said she is thankful to the auction bidders and can’t thank Ty enough for his amazing generosity.

“All the time that he spent on that animal and all the feed and everything that he put into it,” she said. “That he was willing to give that to me has touched me deep in my heart. I showed pigs for years. You work hard all year round for that money. It is not something that’s easy to let go of. This sure takes a little bit of my stress away.”

Heidi Thorson said she couldn’t be more proud of her son’s willingness to help.

“4-H teaches you that it’s more than about the money, it’s more than about the ribbons. It’s about the community, the people and helping one another,” she said. “We’re neighbors and I bet she would have done the same thing for him. It’s what we do. She’ll never forget this moment and neither will he.”

Follow Kelly Simon on Twitter @KSchmidSimon or contact her at 920-356-6757.

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