A little early October drizzle and a few mud puddles weren’t enough to stop hundreds of children from helping operate some “really big” earthmoving equipment at a fundraising event benefiting Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
The family-friendly event, dubbed “Day of the Dozers,” welcomed more than 1,200 attendees, including more than 400 children and their families. ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minn., played host to the event’s featured heavy equipment, including seven Cat® machines: a D6 Dozer, three excavators (a 336E, 312E and 315D), a 730 Articulated Truck, a 277 Skid Steer Loader and a 430D Backhoe Loader. Global Paving Factory Manager David Harn and his wife, Evelyn, organized the event, which raised more than $5,100 for the Cancer and Blood Disorders Program at Children’s.
Harn, a 10-year Caterpillar veteran, has spent the last two and a half years at the Minneapolis facility. Long-time supporters of children’s charities, the Harns once lived near Peoria, Ill., where their young son benefited from the medical expertise of the local Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis Medical Center.
“We knew we wanted to do something to support kids in our community and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota was a natural choice. All kids love big trucks. Through my work and community, I have many connections with local contractors who rely on Cat equipment every day, so it wasn’t hard to persuade them to participate in this one-of-a-kind event. We publicized the event locally, created a website (dayofthedozers.com) and a Facebook page, and it was ultimately a huge success.”
With the help of local contractors and community volunteers, Harn and his team constructed a controlled demonstration area and put procedures in place to get the kids safely into this area where fully-trained and licensed machine operators were waiting. Crowds of on-lookers were kept at a safe distance.
“Safety was and had to be our number one priority,” said Harn.
With the help of the operators, each child was able operate every piece of equipment on site. Additional activities kept the youngest attendees busy, including a three-foot tall culvert maze and oversized sandboxes for digging, as well as machine displays for climbing and photo opportunities. Indoor activities included coloring and face painting, and food was also available. Each child left with giveaways, including play hard hats that looked just like the “big” operators’ hats.
Volunteer Julie Lang, occupational health nurse at the Minneapolis facility, said she will never forget the looks on the kids’ faces when they first saw the site.
“It was priceless. You could see their eyes get bigger as they walked toward the giant sandboxes and life-sized machines they were about to operate. For many kids, this was a once in a lifetime experience—a dream come true. I can’t wait for next year. I wouldn’t miss it!” she said.
Preschoolers David and Henry Meberg, along with their infant sister Edith, had a blast at the event, according to their dad, Dave, a Global Paving CPI black belt.
“Despite the challenging weather, the kids just had a great time. The highlight was when the boys joined two of their friends in the cab of the Cat articulated truck. It was pretty exciting, and we took a lot of photos. There were more than a few memories made that day,” Meberg said.
Lauren Wallerius, benefit events assistant at the Foundation of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, said, “It’s clear that everyone had a great time. The Harn family and their volunteers care a lot about the kids, and what they accomplished was amazing as there was a huge amount of work and planning that went into making this event so fun and successful.”
This event would not have been possible without the generous support of ERX Motor Park, the countless community volunteers and the following sponsors: Plaisted Companies, Inc.; Frattalone Companies; Valley-Rich Co., Inc.; Brenteson Companies, Inc. and local Cat dealer Ziegler, Inc.
A date for next year’s event has already been scheduled for Saturday, September 13, 2014.
Click here to see a video report on this event that was featured on KSTP Channel 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis.