At this summer’s Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair, three high school students, all FFA officers, left the Junior Livestock Sale with empty pockets, but full of satisfaction.
The students donated money from the sales of their project animals to medical research. Chelsea Bilyeu, Madison Campbell and Cody Harpster, all students at State College Area High School, combined their efforts with the help of local businesses to donate $6,050 to various medical facilities.
After spending more than $300 and 100 hours caring for her market lamb, Chelsea Bilyeu, FFA parliamentarian, sold her animal for $2,500 to Centre Concrete and granted the profits to Mount Nittany Medical Center’s cancer department.
Bilyeu had a personal reason for her donation.
“I chose to donate because I lost my uncle of cancer two years ago. It was very important to me to give back to the people that have to go through the same horrible disease,” Bilyeu said.
This act of kindness is not a one-time deal for Bilyeu; she plans to continue donating to medical facilities when she is able.
“I do plan on doing something like this in the future, because my dad is going to be having open-heart surgery here in the next couple months and I would like to give money to the cardiovascular department of Geisinger in Danville,” Bilyeu said.
Reflecting on her experience, she suggests that everyone has the ability to make a positive impact.
“I think the community can help support similar causes by giving their hearts out to the ones that need it, in those times of need,” she said. “Donating money to these causes makes a person feel really good, just by knowing that it is going to something that is just so important. It felt really good to donate my money because I know my uncle would have been so proud of me.”
Madison Campbell, FFA secretary, sold her market hog to Joel Confer Ford, of Bellefonte, and Swartz Fire and Safety Inc., drawing a profit of $2,200.
Campbell donated her proceeds to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, and her buyers paid the good deed forward by giving the hog to the local food bank.
“I chose to donate my money to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville ... because in 2009, I was told I had a brain tumor, and on Dec. 1, I had it removed,” she said. “I now have controlled seizures.
“I wanted to give back to something that helped me through a rough part of my life, hoping I could help do that for other people. It was a way to thank the doctors and nurses who helped me,” Campbell added.
She said she had hoped to give back to the medical community since her freshman year in high school, but this opportunity at the Grange Fair allowed her to donate and also to complete her senior project, which is required for graduation.
Campbell plans to continue her charity work next year.
“It felt really good to donate money to something that impacted my life so much. I remember before I walked out to the sale ring, and they called my name, I couldn’t hold back my tears. Sometimes even thinking about it makes me cry,” Campbell said. “I knew it was real when I heard how much my pig went for and when I went up to thank my buyers. I’ve never felt that good about myself before, and that’s something I will always remember.”
Cody Harpster, FFA sentinel, sold his 4-H market hog to HRI Inc. for a total of $1,350. Harpster donated his profits to the Penn State Hershey hematology and oncology departments in honor of a childhood friend, Jessica Brobeck, who recently struggled with cancer.
“A friend of mine who I grew up showing livestock with was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer,” he said. “She started chemo over the summer, and it was touch-and-go for a while. She recovered and is doing much better.
“I wanted to do something special for her and her family, and donating the proceeds from one of my market hogs seemed the best solution. This particular pig was given to me as a backup project, but ended going to the fair. Because of this, it only seemed right that I keep a good thing going,” Harpster said.
As the bids on his hog climbed well above Harpster’s expectations, he realized the effect of his donation.
“I can’t even describe the feeling I got when I walked in the show ring. My announcement was read out loud, and everyone was silent. When the bidding started, I expected ($600) or maybe $800, but when the auctioneer finally stopped at $1,350, I was stunned.
“Everyone in the arena was crying and I got misty eyed, too. As I left the arena and headed back to the livestock barn, Jessica Brobeck, head still bald from chemo and laughing and crying at the same time, ran up, gave me a hug, and thanked me again and again. That moment, right then, is when I knew what I had done was truly special,” Harpster said.
Casey McCracken is a senior at State College Area High School and the recipient of the Bill Welch Award for Excellence in Journalism.