LaCrosse native on tractor tour to raise money

2013-09-09T00:00:00Z LaCrosse native on tractor tour to raise moneyStan Maddux Times Correspondent
September 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LaCrosse native Darren Hayes is not just on any trip from one end of the country to another.

He's doing it behind the wheel of a 1952 John Deere tractor to raise money to help terminally ill children and their families.

"It's a small sacrifice in perspective to what they go through with an expiration date on their life," said Hayes, 31, last week from Columbus, Ga.

Specifically, the funds will go to the Riley Children’s Foundation and Ronald McDonald House in honor of his close friend, Matt Passillo, who at 31 recently was diagnosed with two inoperable cancerous brain tumors.

Passillo's 4-year-old daughter died about a year ago from the same condition, Hayes said.

Hayes on Aug. 26 left Chiefland, Fla., where he now resides, with his destination being New Buffalo, Mich., toward the middle or end of this month.

"He's always been a very caring and giving guy and this just shows what he can do," said Kim Parlin, whose children and Matt all grew up together in LaCrosse.

Parlin said Darren on Facebook accepted her invitation to stop and see her at the Silver Horseshow in Wanatah where she works as a bartender.

She has placed a donation jar at the counter for customers to contribute to the cause.

"It's starting to fill up pretty well," Parlin said.

Hayes, who 10 years after moving from LaCrosse owns a home remodeling business, said his antique tractor travels at a maximum 14 miles per hour and he's driving about 70 miles per day, mostly on the shoulders of lightly traveled state highways.

He's getting lots of looks from passing motorists who noticed the huge banner on the 16-foot trailer he's pulling that advertises his cause and website where they can donate.

Hayes has camping gear and other supplies in the trailer and finds campgrounds here and here along with strangers who have offered their yards and parking lots for him to set up camp.

"I've been well taken care of along the way," said Hayes.

Hayes said he has no goal for how much money he wants to raise.

"My hope is that the American people will open their hearts and give as much as they can," said Hayes.

You can donate or follow Hayes along on his trip at

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