Sometimes the best place to give back is to one of your own. Ohio’s Western Reserve FFA knew they wanted to do something for fellow member Austin Yaworsky … it just took a little leadership, some proper planning, and many helping hands.
Yaworsky, whose family farms 110 acres of corn and soybeans in Huron County, Ohio, has always wanted to farm. An active FFA member, Yaworsky was born with cerebral palsy, which put some physical limitations on what he can do. He just needed a little help getting around.
“This topic has been discussed amongst the Western Reserve FFA members at every FFA meeting since September 2016. We obviously had a member of our own chapter that was chasing a dream and certainly had a need that was not being met,” said Matt Starkey, Western Reserve FFA Chapter Advisor. “There were many people, collectively, in the community that wanted to help Austin make this dream a reality.”
That dream was to own an Action Trackchair to make it easier to get around the farm. Originally designed for military veterans, the all-terrain wheelchair uses tracks instead of wheels and can move the operator from a sitting to a standing position.
According to Starkey, community members had already started chipping in to help Yaworsky get his new Trackchair. There was a “go fund me” account set up. His story was being spread on social media and local 4-H members were donating their county fair livestock auction proceeds to the cause.
“There were just numerous things that were being done to pave the way, and our FFA members, community, and parents did their part in following suit by hosting a benefit in Austin’s name to finish off what was started by many others,” Starkey said. “Our FFA members voted to host a benefit, in hopes of helping the Yaworsky family of reaching their goal of $20,000 to purchase the Trackchair to enable Austin to be mobile on the farm.”
On Dec. 10, the chapter hosted a spaghetti dinner benefit, serving 400 people and raising nearly $7,500 to put toward the Action Trackchair. Additional money poured in after the event from people who could not attend.
Shortly before Christmas, Yaworsky received his present and he’s been putting it to good use ever since.
“Actually, the day after he received it he had the opportunity to go hunting on the property about a mile back into the woods and you could see the smile on his face the entire ride up towards the driveway as I’m standing their waiting to check it out,” said Western Reserve FFA President Micayla Fincham. “The smile and expressions on his face was something that I haven’t seen on Austin in the years that I have known him.”
Yaworsky said the chair has helped improve his activity on the farm.
“Well, first, I can catch animals when they get out (loose),” Yaworsky said. “I am also more able to help with everything on the farm (everyday chores and farm work).”
His favorite farm chore with the Action Trackchair?
“I like to catch the cows but I don’t have to do that everyday,” Yaworsky said. “I also like hauling hay and feed.”
Starkey credits the Western Reserve FFA Chapter leadership with the event’s success. Fincham, along with her committee members, made phone calls, visits, and rallied the whole community to make the benefit successful. Local businesses donated materials, baskets, goods, and services to be auctioned or raffled. Other businesses made donations in exchange for tickets to send their employees to the dinner benefit as Christmas gifts. A few FFA members even decided to construct a bench on their own time to be donated to the event.
Starkey said the project boosted the confidence level of many of the Western Reserve FFA members while helping Yaworsky pursue his dream to farm.
“First of all, it has allowed them to realize that anything is possible with proper planning and enough help. I’m confident that we had great leadership in this activity. Without Micayla Fincham’s influence and steadfast beliefs, this benefit may not have been as successful. It is always nice to have an FFA President that is persistent and will step up when needed. She did just that,” Starkey said. “ It also helped our FFA members to realize that everybody can do a little bit of something for the benefit of all. The success of the benefit has boosted the confidence levels of many of our FFA members, realizing that they helped another member in making what was once a dream, become a reality.”
“The FFA students have always helped me,” Yaworsky said. “They have never told me that I could not do something. I can always depend on them and this is really nice.”
Most importantly, Yaworsky hasn’t let his disability get in the way of farming. Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.
“If somebody with disabilities wants to do something, let them do it,” Yaworsky. “No matter what their disability is, they will figure out a way. And this goes for anything.”