On Aug. 19, 2017, 80-year-old Richard Collen drove his truck into Goodview Park in Wyoming, Minnesota, and parked alongside the silent auction tent. Hitched to the back was a precious load: a 1938 Allis-Chalmers B tractor. Collen, who lives in East Bethel, had restored the vintage tractor in memory of his great-grandson, Tim Hickerson. The young man died by suicide in 2015.
Collen had donated the tractor to the Stomp Out Suicide 5K silent auction. The yearly Stomp Out Suicide event benefits Canvas Health, which operates the suicide prevention phone and text lines for the state of Minnesota and provides mobile crisis counseling for greater metro residents.
Collen’s goal was simple: He wanted his tractor to save lives.
A shared love of tractors
Collen and Hickerson’s shared love of tractors—and that particular 1938 Allis-Chalmers B tractor—dated back to when Hickerson was just a boy.
In 1996, Collen and his young great-grandson first spotted the orange tractor on the side of the road, half buried in mud. “You should buy it,” Hickerson told Collen. “It could be our project.” Hickerson was only 5 then, but he and his great-grandpa already shared a special bond. They liked vehicles and restoration, taking things apart, learning how they worked, and putting them back together again.
When Hickerson passed away at just 21 years old, Collen felt as though a vital part of himself had been removed, never to be replaced.
“He was my buddy,” says Collen.
A way to heal
Buying the tractor and setting about the work of restoring it gave Collen an outlet for his grief. Donating the tractor to the Stomp Out Suicide 5K was his way of helping prevent another family from ever having to experience the loss of a loved one by suicide. Tractors like Collen’s typically fetch between $1,500 and $2,500 at auction, but there were no bids on the day of the event. So he drove the tractor home.
A powerful story
Boyd Huppert of KARE-11 learned about Collen’s donation and aired a “Land of 10,000 Stories” segment about the tractor on his Sept. 19 broadcast.
Chuck Brown of Minnetrista and his wife were sitting in bed watching the 10 o’clock news when Huppert’s story came on. For a few minutes afterward, they sat in silence, too moved to speak. They had lost a dear friend to suicide in May and were still so sad. They hadn’t been able to make sense of any of it.
But buying this tractor, Brown believed, could do some good.
Brown sent an email to Canvas Health, talked with Colleen on the phone, and ultimately purchased the tractor for $2,500. Including the tractor, this year’s Stomp Out Suicide event raised nearly $78,000 to help save lives.
The calls and emails to Canvas Health with inquiries about the tractor began as a trickle and became an outpouring as people shared the segment online. The tractor is sold now, but we hope people will continue to give in memory of Tim Hickerson, and in honor of his great-grandpa, who loved him so much.
The Stomp Out Suicide 5K Walk/Run & Have Fun event was founded by Katie and Sean Haines in memory of their daughter Alissa, who died by suicide at the tender age of 15. The event, which benefits Canvas Health, provides a way for people to remember loved ones and raise money for suicide prevention. Please mark your calendar for next year’s Stomp Out Suicide event, which will take place on Aug. 18, 2018.