At birth, Colter's parents brought him home to a nursery decorated in John Deere green and yellow making it no surprise when the toddler's first word was “tractor.”
One evening at the end of September 2012, just weeks after starting kindergarten, Colter came home from a church outing and complained to his parents, Wendy and Joey, that his stomach hurt.
As the night progressed, so did his stomachache. With the onset of a fever, Wendy took Colter to the doctor where they immediately checked his blood to find his white blood cell count wasn't quite right. The 5 year-old was admitted to the hospital and his leukemia diagnosis soon followed.
Once a week, Colter and his family traveled two hours to a children’s hospital in Dallas for chemotherapy treatments and once most of the hard parts of chemo were out of the way, the hospital staff referred Colter to Make-A-Wish where he could make a wish for something that only his imagination could think up.
Growing up in East Texas and having a room dedicated to tractors, Colter wished for something more than just a tractor of his own. He made a wish to visit the John Deere factory where he could see the beautiful green and yellow machines come to life.
Colter, his parents and his 3-year-old twins siblings were given a rare and special VIP tour of John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois thanks to a wonderful team of factory employees.
When Colter and his family arrived at the combine factory, Harvester Works and UAW leadership waited at the door to personally greet the little guy who was given special permission to visit. (*note: Deere doesn’t usually allow children younger than 13 on factory tours.)
Ryan “Rhino” Dotson, UAW Local 865 committeeman, presented Colter with a membership card marked “seniority number one,” and an official Deere employee badge to wear for the day. And that was just the beginning.
“At every stop during the factory tour and at every station in the factory, Harvester Works employees had truly special activities planned," said Nate Clark, Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Vice President of the John Deere Foundation. “They cut Colter’s name with a laser cutter, they painted his name using a painting robot, they made everything about him. Everyone clapped and waved at him, they treated Colter like a star.”
After the factory tour, Colter and his family were taken by limousine to Deere & Company World Headquarters in Moline, where they were served a special lunch of Colter ’s favorite foods in the executive dining room. The menu included macaroni and cheese, pizza, boneless chicken wings, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and strawberry cake with whipped cream.
Even though a few weeks have passed since their visit, Colter and his family still can’t believe what happened.
"For a boy who’s gone through so much, the chance to make a wish and see it come true was a shining light of hope," said Wendy. "It was a blessing for the entire family."
Colter is now in remission but he will continue chemotherapy treatments until December 2015.