Published on Friday, May 1, 2020
Carpet farming has been a staple farm kid tradition for generations. Little future farmers are running successful operations with miniature equipment in their living rooms, at Grandma’s house, or even in the sandbox. But for Kale Schmidt, a farm kid in Iowa, his carpet farming operation had to be transported to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.
In June 2015, then five-year-old Kale was diagnosed with Bilateral Wilms Tumor, cancer of the kidneys. He was released that August, only to be readmitted 48 hours later due to signs of a stroke. He was re-diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma and spent the next 231 days in the hospital.
“Kale has always loved farming, and it helped him get through his time in the hospital,” said Kale’s mom, Erica. “Carpet farming turned into hospital bed, bedside table, and therapy mat farming.”
When it was time for harvest that fall, Kale stayed up-to-date on what was going on back home by FaceTiming his dad, Mike, between games of Farming Simulator. According to Mike, Kale was even giving advice and orders to the team back home on how to get the job done.
“Harvest was the hardest time for him,” said Erica. “He always loved being in the combine and grain cart. During FaceTime calls, Mike would hold up the two-way radio to the iPad, so the rest of the family could talk to Kale as well.”
Kale’s primary doctor and other staff members who were not very familiar with agriculture joined in on the farming fun. “We introduced a lot of the hospital staff to the world of farming,” said Erica. “Random doctors at the hospital would stop in and ask if they could see what was going on at the farm.”
During his time in the hospital, both the ag community and the Schmidt’s smalltown community rallied together to support Kale and his family.
“We can’t thank the community back home enough,” said Mike “They had T-shirt and silicone bracelet fundraisers, a tractor pull benefit, a hog roast, and even a garage sale to help raise money for our family. The community really came together to help us out.”
After a few setbacks, Kale was discharged from the hospital in June 2016. On July 19, 2016, the Schmidt’s received the call they had been praying for — Kale was cancer-free.
Throughout their time in the hospital, the Schmidt family saw how vital the child life staff was to making life for these kids as normal as possible. Inspired by their work and the need for outside help, Kale’s grandmother, Karen, created Kale Kares, LLC, a nonprofit designated to support the child life services at the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics and to help spread joy to kids in similar situations as Kale.
Using sales from her jewelry business, Karen has been able to provide monetary donations and supplies to the hospital. One of the donations called the sunshine bags used Beck's famous yellow bags. The bags were packed full of everything yellow for the kids and their families.
“A friend of mine knew a little boy from her hometown who was diagnosed with cancer and received a sunshine bag,” said Erica. “They told me he received the bag the day he was admitted. I guess he had refused to talk to anyone that day, but when he got the bag, his face lit up, he smiled, and he started talking again.”
Kale is now a healthy 10-year-old and will celebrate four years of being cancerfree in July 2020. His parents say that his love for farming has only grown deeper; however, carpet farming has become a thing of the past. He has moved on to help with the real equipment under the watchful eye of his family.
If you would like to contribute to Kale Kares, email Karen at email@example.com and include Kale Kares in the subject.
Author: Kyle Dickover
Categories: CropTalk, 2020