It’s a story that first captured the hearts of viewers and readers in October.
“There's not enough words in this world because I never thought I was this important,” Curtis Lewis told U.S. Farm Report this fall.
Lewis is a father, husband and a farmer battling stage 4 brain cancer—a diagnosis that was sudden and severe.
“I’m still coming to as far as I'm still trying to gather it all,” said Lewis. “It's hard to explain, really hard accept,” he said. “We have four children. I think it's a dream.”
The tragic turn of events started at the beginning of October, and now Lewis is fighting for his life.
“I’m not going to quit,” Lewis told us.
While the tragic news was sinking in, compassion sparked action.
“When I first decided to do this, I didn't ever dream it would turn into something like it is now,” said Ben Brockmeyer.
Brockmeyer and Thad Madsen work for MFA Inc., a local ag retailer in Odessa, Mo. They decided to take a semi from farm to farm, and over two days they collected grain from any farmer who wanted to donate. The effort became known as “Combining for Curtis.”
“Really, our goal was four or five or six loads, and this is one of our first lows right now as we speak, and already people have committed about 15,000 bushels,” said Madsen.
When U.S. Farm Report revisited MFA a month later, that 15,000 bushels turned into so much more.
“We raised about $35,000 through grain donations alone,” said Madsen. “But really the cool part about it is we got checks from all over the country. We received monetary checks from New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, people in Illinois as well. So, it really came from all over.”
Those donations were in addition to the $35,000 worth the group collected locally. It’s the outpouring of love and generosity that came from some farmers who personally knew Lewis.
“I just told my dad, ‘I think that we have to do this,’” said Clayton Wieligman of Wellington, Mo. “I mean, it wouldn't matter what we were doing, you could call him and he’d drop what he's doing to help you. So, I figured we'd probably do the same.”
In a year when every bushel counts, many farmers gave more than a bushel.
“We’re donating a semi load,” said Wiegelman.
It didn’t stop there. As Lewis’ story spread, so did the kindness, with complete strangers from across the country feeling compelled to help.
“We've just had an outstanding amount of people that wanted to do something and people from our area, which we figured we'd have. But then you also get people from Kansas and New Mexico, a couple from Texas,” said Brockmeyer. “They just want to find a way to help people, and this is a way to do it.”
“The donations came from California, Texas, you name it,” said Angela Lewis, Curtis’ wife. “It is truly unbelievable. It restores your faith in humanity, that there really are good people out there that care about you and your family. “
The power of giving came in many different forms for “Combining for Curtis.” One U.S. Farm Report viewer in Houston even emailed, offering up a place for the Lewis family to stay while they traveled to MD-Anderson in Texas for treatment.
“I wish you were here,” NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer said on a Facebook Live while signing a hat for Lewis. “I know you’re home taking care of yourself. We’ll see you next year, buddy!”
As the story gathered generosity, it proved giving in many forms, and helping others, is the bedrock of rural America.
“We were expecting two, three, maybe four loads of grain if we were lucky, and you know, it’s blown up all the way to $35,000, plus the checks that went to him as well,” said Madsen. “I think it's pretty cool, and it shows how many people he's really touched that he had no idea about. I had no idea it would get this big. Honestly, I didn't. I knew the farming community, just in general, is always very generous and wants to help people. We want to help our own, but for it to get this big, it's really humbling, honestly.”
Humbling for a farming community that’s proving strength not only comes in numbers, but from neighbors helping neighbors.
“He’s said several times, ‘I never thought I was that important,’” said Brockmeyer. “We all take it for granted that you don't really think you impact this many people or this person or that person. It just goes to show what a large impact you have not even knowing it, and we all take for granted.”
As this harvest full of heart filled the Lewis family and the community with joy and hope, the Lewis’ are grateful for an agricultural community across the country that cares.
“We can't thank everyone enough for everything that they've done for our family,” said Angela. “There's just there's no words at all.”
“We can't thank people enough,” said Lewis. “There’s not enough words; there’s just not enough words.”
For now they’re savoring every minute in life while grasping onto hope that modern medicine will make miracles as the fabric of rural America reminds us all of the meaning of love and the value of life.