When you wish upon a steer: Teen with cancer receives, shows Hereford

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chris Cummings’ wish came true Dec. 2 as he stood in the livestock arena at the 2006 Hoosier Beef Congress in Indianapolis.
This 15-year-old from Union Mills, Ind., who is battling cancer, was able to show a Hereford steer at the congress because of a wish granted by the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.
The wish. When Cummings was in Indianapolis for chemotherapy earlier in the year, Clarian North’s Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases staff presented him with the paperwork to apply for a wish – any wish.
Most folks wouldn’t understand why of all the gifts he could’ve requested, Cummings chose to receive and show a steer.
He explained, “I thought it’d be neat to get a steer instead of a video game or something like that. You get a real-life experience out of raising an animal.”
Cummings chose Hereford because he likes the look of the breed and has shown a Hereford steer before at the La Porte County Fair. Cummings said the congress was a whole new experience because of its caliber, with more than 1,400 cattle exhibited.
Family event. He enjoyed the event with his dad and mom, Tom and Carol, as well as his brother, Tom.
“We had a lot of fun showing,” Cummings said. “I’d never shown at anything bigger than the county fair.”
His brother added, “It definitely helped Chris, and we all enjoyed it, too. It took our minds off things.”
In addition to the steer, the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund gave Cummings an aluminum grooming chute, combs, halters and other fitting supplies to make the day complete.
Members of Cummings’ community also played a large role in the success of his wish. Les Craft, a family friend and rancher in La Porte County, helped acquire the Hereford steer from Larry Vukonich of Joliet, Mont. Craft then broke the steer to lead.
Neighbor and 4-H leader, Dan Youngreen, helped with clipping and grooming. More friends – Joy Griffin, Rob Fisher and Dave Ambers – helped with items like transportation and show entries.
Griffin also gifted a crossbred steer to Cummings to add to his 4-H project, and helped him and his brother prepare for the congress.
The family said that Griffin’s guidance helped make this first experience a memorable one for the whole crew.
Show results. When all was said and done, Cummings’ steer stood sixth in its class of 11 at the congress, and Cummings stood by his side, proud of his accomplishment and grateful for those who helped him along the way.
“We really appreciate the help and support,” he said.
The Hereford steer, Bob, remains at the Cummings farm, and Cummings plans to show him at the county fair this summer, and possibly even at the Michigan Beef Expo.
“If people knew what the wish does for a kid, a lot more people would be donors,” his mom said.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal.”
She explained that when Cummings found out about the wish, his chemotherapy went easier, and now Cummings looks forward to feeding his steer each morning.

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