Instead of showing his animals at the Erie County Fair, 9-year-old Braxton Miller was in a hospital bed.
It was supposed to be his first year showing animals for 4-H. That changed when, two weeks before the fair, Braxton and his three siblings were injured in a car crash.
His sister, Abbygail, 12, a fourth-year 4-H’er, was also severely injured and unable to exhibit at the fair.
Their 4-H club, friends, family and the community, however, stepped in to make sure their efforts weren’t for nothing. On Aug. 9, Braxton’s turkey and Abbygail’s chickens sold for a combined $23,000 at the Erie County Fair small project auction, in Sandusky, Ohio.
The proceeds will go back to Braxton and Abbygail, to help pay for medical expenses, among other things.
“The amount of support the community put out beforehand, and then, at the auction was overwhelming,” said John Miller, the children’s father. “There weren’t any dry eyes in the whole building, I think.”
The four children were riding in the car with their mother, Janmarie Miller, when the car was in a crash on state Route 2 July 24.
The children were flown by medical helicopter from the scene to Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center for treatment, according to an Ohio State Highway Patrol news release.
Braxton had the worst injuries of his siblings, John Miller said. He had a spinal cord injury, a shattered pelvis and blood on his brain. He is paralyzed from the chest down.
It’s too soon to tell if he’ll regain feeling in his lower half or not. But doctors are impressed already with how much he’s able to use his arms and the progress he is making.
Abbygail had a fractured pelvis and severe concussion. Hailey, 7, had a concussion and broken cheekbone, and Penelope, 3, had a broken toe. Janmarie Miller was treated for minor injuries.
The girls are recovering at home in Castalia, Ohio, and Braxton will soon be moved to a rehab facility to continue his recovery, John Miller said.
For the fair, which ran from Aug. 6 to 10, Abbygail raised chickens and a hog.
Braxton raised turkeys and a calf for his first time.
“Before the fair, he was really struggling with having to let his first calf go,” John Miller said.
The family doesn’t raise livestock except for the children’s 4-H projects, but they do farm corn, soybeans, wheat and straw, he said.
Dawn Jarrett wanted to help her friend’s family after she heard about the crash. She and John Miller went to school together and their daughters played together on a softball team this summer.
Jarrett’s children also raise animals for 4-H, but they show them in neighboring Sandusky County. Braxton’s case hit her especially hard.
“Your first time in 4-H as a kid, you work so hard all summer long and knowing [Braxton] wasn’t even able to set foot in the fairground,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett began gathering funds from area businesses and families to buy Braxton’s turkey at the fair’s livestock auction. She raised just over $2,800.
Other members of their 4-H club showed the Millers’ animals for them, John Miller said.
After Abbygail’s chickens sold at the auction, Jarrett raised her bidder number to add on $100. Auctioneer Roger Hunker explained the girl’s situation and asked for other add-ons.
“Numbers started flying for hers,” Jarrett said.
The chickens brought in about $6,000.
When it was time for Braxton’s turkey to go up for sale, Jarrett bought it with the money she had raised.
After it was purchased, the auctioneer read a letter written by the Miller family.
“We appreciate every prayer, kind word, listening ear, hug, toy, gift card, food and monetary donation,” the letter read. “Abby, Hailey and Penny are healing well. Braxton has a long road to recovery. His strong spirit and good nature have helped his progress since day one … We need, and will continue to need, every bit of support as we learn and follow the path to our new ‘normal’ life.”
How to help
Monetary donations to help the children recover can be sent to
• Castalia Miller Kids, PO Box 1, Castalia, OH 44824
• Paypal to CastaliaMillerKids@gmail.com
• GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/sgtzg8-miller-family
Then the auctioneer asked for add-on bids to Braxton’s turkey. Again, the sale price grew as people continued to raise their numbers, reaching around $12,000.
“It was very emotional,” Jarrett said. “The way this community came together and supported this family. It showed what the community and 4-H program is all about.”
Add-ons continued to pour in after the sale. The turkey is going to be donated to a local homeless shelter, Jarrett said.
Bringing it home
Braxton’s calf sold at the auction Aug. 10, but his grandfather bought it back for him after the sale, John Miller said. They’re bringing it back home so Braxton can continue raising it and show it again next year.
“His face lit up when we told him we were bringing it home,” John Miller said.
No matter what the next year holds, Braxton has at least one goal in mind, his father said. Make it into the show ring.
(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!