‘Pinky’ makes return appearance to help raise awareness at Relay for Life

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Joel Amdahl holds a toy model of the Fillmore County Relay for Life Pinky tractor at the 2016 Relay held in Chatfield.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

It’s Pinky, rollin’ against cancer again.

“I bought it on the auction about three or four years ago when Chatfield had the cancer relay, and I donated it back just to help raise money for awareness. That’s the reason I did it,” stated Chatfield resident Linus Hammell.

Hammell has brought “Pinky,” the very pink International-Farmall M tractor, back to the Relay for Life this year. He bought the tractor at the 2016 Fillmore County Relay for Life when it was the jewel of the live auction to raise funds for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“Pinky” is a gift of Joel Amdahl, from Team C.H.R.I.S., one of the Relay teams hailing from the Mabel area. Prior to the 2016 Relay, co-organizer Deb Jorgenson, of the Chatfield Chatty Walkers Relay team, was proud to accept it.

At that time, she shared a statement from Pinky’s donor, whose wife was on Team C.H.R.I.S. that year. The Mabel Relay for Life team honors his cousin, Chris Hansen’s, fight against cancer.

Amdahl related that he did not become personally involved in the Relay until approximately five years ago, even as his wife, Nancy, had been on the track for quite a few Relays.

He wrote before the 2016 Relay, “Her involvement was due largely to her best friend and my cousin, Chris Hansen, being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I am very happy to say that Chris is a 12-year survivor and going strong. Over the years, I was impressed with my wife’s and Chris’s involvement in the Relay for Life. Prior to joining Team C.H.R.I.S., I attended a few of the events on a limited basis and was really surprised to see how many friends and other people I was acquainted with that were cancer survivors or had lost loved ones to cancer. I personally have lost numerous family members and friends to cancer, but until I saw the devastation of so many families due to this disease, it really didn’t sink in. I did my own research on the Relay for Life and was amazed at the giant strides that have been made in fighting this disease due to this wonderful program.”

Amdahl continued, “I was sitting on my porch last fall (2015), trying to come up with a good idea for Relay 2016. I personally like to restore old Allis-Chalmers tractors, so I thought it would be a great idea to do one for the Relay. I called a friend of mine, Nick Spande, who I know is good with mechanics and bodywork. I asked him if he would help me restore an old tractor if I purchased one, and he was all in. I went online and found a few old tractors locally that might be good candidates for our venture. The first one I called on was an old John Deere, which was for sale by the Krulls – Pinky’s former owner. They told me the tractor was still for sale, but that a neighbor of theirs was interested in it also, and they would have to check with him first. After about an hour, they called me back and said their neighbor wanted the John Deere, but they had an old M Farmall they would be willing to sell.”

Amdahl outlined that he told the owners he’d be interested in restoring the tractor for the Relay for Life and wanted to come to their home in Decorah to look at it, and upon sharing that information, the owners asked if he’d be interested in buying the little tractor.

“I had seen this tractor at our local Steam Engine Days event and was definitely interested,” Amdahl said. “They felt this tractor should continue helping cancer patients and said they would adjust the price accordingly, which would be their donation to the cause. This was a win-win for everyone. Pinky only needed some minor repairs and touchup painting, which have been completed, and she and her little sidekick, Pinkette, are ready for the Relay auction this year. It is my opinion that the Relay for Life is not about any one person or one gift, but rather a large group of fantastic people joining together to fight for a cure. I am very honored to be involved with them.”

Jorgenson then invited people to stop by the 2016 Relay and see the tractor in person to get a close-up look at the spiffy pink machine, and she’s extending the same invitation this year now that Hammell has chosen to re-donate it to the Relay.

Hammell stated that Pinky had spent a few years in his shed, taken out for a spin once or twice, but that the pink paint kept her a novelty among tractor collectors.

“There hasn’t been much interest in people buying it, but I had it in the Western Days parade a couple of times – Roy Lange drove it in the parade as a reminder to raise awareness. But I just thought that if I donated it back, we could see if it could raise more money,” Hammell added.

This year’s Fillmore County Relay for Life is set for the evening of Friday, July 12, in Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park, and thanks to Hammell, Pinky’s sure to be there, ready for another bidder to buy her and take her home, and just maybe, in a year or two, roll her out of the shed and give her another chance at fighting cancer.