Five men and a vintage tractor named Betsy will today begin a trek along Route 66 in the US in a fundraiser for the Irish Cancer Society.
The group is led by retired sheep farmer Kevin Curran from Waterville, Co Kerry, and includes several farmers. He began fundraising for cancer research in 2010 after his wife Eileen, who had named the tractor, died from cancer.
The group accompanying Betsy, a 1963 Fordson Dexta, will leave Los Angeles today and travel 2,500 miles east to Chicago. Mr Curran estimated it would take 15 days, assuming there were no major setbacks along the way.
Because tractors are not allowed on part of the route, Betsy will travel on a trailer for 15 per cent of the journey.
Betsy’s support team includes Maurice Fitzgerald, Frank Meara, Ogie Moran and Mark Walsh.
Mr Curran’s previous fundraising tractor runs with Betsy included Malin Head to Mizen Head, the Ring of Kerry to Dingle, and Mizen Head to Carnsore Point, but this is the first time they have left Ireland.
The tractor was shipped to the US in July and arrived with little time to spare. The team has been contacted by many Irish people living in the States who have offered support and spare parts, should Betsy flounder on the unfamiliar roads.
Mr Curran said the group had chosen the Irish Cancer Society “as each one of us on the team has been touched by cancer either directly or indirectly and we want the funds raised to go to fund cancer research so that future patients have better outcomes”.
Irish Cancer Society chief executive John McCormack said he was thrilled that the charity had been chosen by the fundraisers.
“Kevin and his team have taken on this fundraiser for the last three years raising significant money for the Irish Cancer Society and to see him take this fundraiser across the Atlantic shows a huge amount of creativity and passion for the cause,” Mr McCormack said.
ALISON HEALY – Irishtimes.com