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Agriculture community raises money for local family

Friends and co-workers of a Salem Twp. trustee who died unexpectedly this year chipped in to make sure his family had a special Champaign County Fair.

Howard Wilkins, whose son Zane was showing a dairy feeder at the fair, was killed in a snowmobile accident earlier this year. His friends and neighbors raised close to $13,000 to purchase Zane’s dairy feeder project on Friday, the last day of this year’s Champaign County Fair.

The money raised will go to Howard’s family. Family members could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Molly McGuire, who helped organize the project, described Howard as a well-respected trustee who owned his own farm. He also owned a business in which he traveled the state trimming hoofs for dairy herds, an important part of keeping the animals healthy.

McGuire was reluctant to discuss the effort, but said it was important to show Howard’s family how much he meant to the community.

“His family has always given back so it was time for us to give back,” McGuire said.

Through his business, Howard traveled frequently and was well-respected throughout the state, said Josh Ashtorino a family friend who helped organize the effort. He estimated close to 100 buyers contributed to raise money for the dairy feeder.

“He traveled all over,” Ashtorino said of Howard. “If there was a 4-H club that needed something done he would just go and do it.”

The dairy feeders are young steers, but typically receive significantly less at auction than Zane’s project.

McGuire said the effort made sense, because Zane, a student in the West Liberty-Salem school district, worked hard and has shown interest in raising the animals.

“There were several tears that were shed,” Ashtorino said of the crowd when the purchase was announced. “It was a pretty neat atmosphere.”

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