Mid-State Fair

Atascadero teen restores tractor to fight cancer

Sarah Stafford, 16, an Atascadero High School student, has restored this Allis-Chalmers tractor and painted it pink, including pink pinstripes. It will be sold to raise funds for breast cancer research.
Sarah Stafford, 16, an Atascadero High School student, has restored this Allis-Chalmers tractor and painted it pink, including pink pinstripes. It will be sold to raise funds for breast cancer research. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Sarah Stafford and her eye-catching pink tractor that touts breast cancer awareness have made quite an impression at the California Mid-State Fair this year.

“I’ve gotten a lot of hugs from strangers,” said the 16-year-old Atascadero High School and FFA student.

The tractor won third place and $1,000 in the JB Dewar tractor restoration competition, whose results were announced at the fair’s Cattlemen & Farmers Day.

When Stafford was given the 1948 Allis-Chalmers Model B tractor by a family friend, “he told me to go out there and do something extraordinary with (it),” she said.

Cancer awareness was the first thing that came to mind. The disease has touched her father, her aunt and a family friend.

“It’s been something that’s been close to my heart,” the teen said.

Her father, John Stafford of Atascadero, has been in remission from thyroid cancer for five years.

“I’m so proud of her,” he said of his daughter and her project. “It’s a really cool thing she did.”

Over the last year, Sarah Stafford put more than 350 hours into restoring the tractor. She worked at night and in the early mornings between schoolwork, sports and volunteering with her Special Olympics basketball team. Friends and family taught her how to rebuild the tractor’s carburetor and starter, and how to pin-stripe the paint and do the bodywork “so I know how to do it myself now,” she said.

After the fair ends Sunday, the North County teen is donating the tractor to a local nonprofit organization, the Cancer Support Community, California Central Coast.

“It’s such a cute concept, and she’s a great kid, so we’re going to have some fun with it,” said Christie Kelly, the group’s executive director. Plans so far include showcasing the tractor at local events and involving the teen in outreach.

The tractor will be the centerpiece of the fund’s “Plowing Cancer” campaign, inspired by the motto painted on the back of the tractor near the restored cultivator, a piece traditionally used for farming and row crops. Money raised will go to the organization’s Breast Cancer Care Fund, an ef for t launched earlier this year to help people pay for emergency cancerrelated needs such as co-pays, medications and post-surgical clothing.

Kelly says the work of teens like Sarah Stafford fight cancer in a special way.

“She’s been so successful in this quiet way,” Kelly said. “She’s just so humble and cute as a bug.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

To see what’s next for Sarah Stafford’s tractor and how to donate to its cause, visit the Cancer Support Community’s website at http://www.twcccc.org.

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