By Mary Johnson, Alabama Farmers Federation
Cassandra Gifford loves pink, has a big heart and is talented working with her hands. When she tackled the task of tractor restoration, she combined all those traits by painting the tractor pink and using it to help fight breast cancer.
“At the beginning, I wanted a pink tractor because that’s not something everyone has,” said Gifford, a 2015 Eufaula High School (EHS) graduate. “But then I read about a pink tractor competition that raised money for breast cancer awareness, and I decided I wanted to do that. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The restored 1952 Ford 8N tractor is lovingly called Hope.
“She got her name because survivors and those who deal with breast cancer need hope to get through it,” Gifford said.
Since fully restored, Gifford and Hope have made numerous public appearances raising money for the breast cancer fund at Medical Center Barbour in Eufaula, an affiliate of Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC).
“I never dreamed I’d be as busy as I am, but I want to do whatever I can to help,” she said. “Last October, which is breast cancer awareness month, the tractor was on the road almost every day.”
Funds raised from her 2014 public appearances helped the medical center purchase digital mammography equipment. Previously, Barbour County residents traveled to Dothan or Columbus, Georgia, for a mammogram.
For 2015, Gifford has a $50,000 fundraising goal. Those funds will pay for mammograms for women who need financial support. Reaching that goal would help over 750 women receive preventative screenings, she said.
Gifford said while the magnitude of the tasks differ, she sees similarities between restoring a tractor and battling cancer.
“At the beginning, it’s a challenge, and it might feel like you can’t do it,” she said. “But with some modifications and a lot of work and hope, you end up with a survivor.”
While benefitting the local community, the tractor restoration also received national recognition.
Gifford and her tractor were featured on the cover of Fastline magazine, a tractor sales bulletin, after winning a Southeastern division of the publication’s pink tractor contest. The project also earned Gifford a gold rating in the National FFA Agricultural Proficiency Awards.
With plenty of demands on her time, from competitive bass fishing to work and being an FFA district officer, Gifford managed to complete the project in 18 months.
“To take something that looked like it was destined for the trash heap and make it into something that’s worthy of a showroom — that’s amazing,” she said.
Gifford was quick to mention the community offered help to complete the project. Other FFA chapter members from EHS pitched in when needed, and local business owners donated some materials, including tires and the metal pink ribbon that graces the front of the tractor.
Aside from the community, Gifford said her greatest inspiration was her FFA adviser, Buster Padgett.
“I couldn’t have done this without him,” she said. “I saw him work with other members of our tractor restoration team, and I knew I wanted to do that.”
Padgett said he’s impressed by Gifford’s accomplishments, but not surprised.
“She’s goal-oriented, a hard worker and has one of the biggest hearts of any kid I’ve ever known,” Padgett said. “When she makes up her mind to do something, she’s going to do it. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Her new goal is to follow in Padgett’s footsteps and become an agriscience teacher. Gifford is a freshman at Wallace Community College with plans to transfer to Auburn University.
Meanwhile, Gifford is staying busy this October. Hope was displayed at the Alabama Farmers Federation home office in Montgomery Sept. 30 – Oct. 9. The tractor will also be a key part of Alabama’s Hall of States display at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 28-31.
She plans to restore another tractor and use it to raise funds for disabled veterans.
To schedule Hope for a public appearance, contact Gifford at (334) 689-0166. To donate to the Medical Center Barbour’s breast cancer fund, make checks payable to SAMC Foundation with a memo “Pink Tractor Breast Cancer Fund.” Mail checks to 1922 Fairview Ave., Dothan, AL, 36301.
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