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Photo by Joe Bowen/FOCUS Eva Hoaby sits atop Jessica Zacharias’ car, with Zacharias, after a successful heat in the Otter Fest demolition derby.

Driven to help: Derbying for a Cure raises funds for Eva Hoaby

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Driven to help: Derbying for a Cure raises funds for Eva Hoaby
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

For the past two years, the demolition derby at Otter Fest has had a small but dedicated team of fundraisers in its midst.

Led by Jessica Zacharias, the Derbying for a Cure program used sponsorships, T-shirt sales and a raffle to raise money for Eva Hoaby, a New York Mills youth struggling with cancer, and her family.

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Hoaby is a young girl with a tumor in her brain stem, and Derbying for a Cure’s sponsors provide monetary assistance.

Previous events have raised several thousand dollars each, and, while the official numbers were yet to be tallied at press time, Zacharias expected this year’s derby to do the same.

In previous years, the derby has sponsored women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, painting all the involved cars pink to signify the cause.

This year, however, derby participants decided to expand their scope to include any kind of cancer – including Hoaby’s – and painted their cars purple, the little girl’s favorite color.

While not in charge of the Otter Fest demo derby itself, Derbying for a Cure team members made up a sizable portion of the contestants, and the crowd gave a rousing ovation to Zacharias as her name was announced while she drove her camouflage and purple car into the arena for the first heat.

Zacharias and her husband have been participating in derbies since they were in high school, she explained in an interview that night, saying that they eventually decided to do something more worthwhile with their hobby by adding the charitable aspect.

As she spoke, Zacharias’ daughter, Sarah, drove by, making her way to the third heat.

“Hold on to the steering wheel!” Zacharias told her daughter as the two did a quick fist bump.

The derby was Sarah’s second ever, Zacharias explained.

In her heat, Sarah’s car stopped moving after a series of impacts that crumpled the trunk and destroyed a rear wheel, forcing her to sit inside while the other drivers jockeyed for the remaining spots that would advance out of the third heat.

After a few moments, though, she managed to get her car, with “EVA” emblazoned inside a purple heart on the passenger door, moving again.

The crowd cheered, and she was able to continue the derby, despite the damage.

Elsewhere, other Derbying for a Cure team members were selling purple T-shirts and raffle tickets. The T-shirts featured the logos of major sponsors.

The first prize in the raffle was a “slider” – a modified drive shaft that slides when impacted, rather than falling out or breaking completely, making it a favorite of derby contestants.

In-between T-shirt sales, Vonnie Swanson and the other volunteers at the booth expressed their appreciation for the derby and the Derbying for a Cure organization.

“It’s such a worthwhile thing,” she said.

“We’ve all been touched by cancer in some form or another,” said Chad Tomlinson, gesturing to the other volunteers.

Jerry Swanson, Vonnie’s husband, mentioned the loss of Bruce Spanswick as one example. At the outset of the derby, a moment of silence had been observed for Spanswick and his family, followed by a loud round of applause.

To donate to Derbying for a Cure, call Jessica Zacharias at 218-298-0340.

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