Just before Christmas 2013, cowboys from around the country found themselves writing checks to a school they had never heard of in Creston, Iowa, population just under 7,900.
Although the events took place nearly two years ago, they are fresh in the memory of top operators who know and care about Tom and Leisa Frey, who operate Creston Livestock Auction. It was an example of the genuine concern many farmers have for their communities, a compassion that often goes unnoticed.
The outpouring of support followed the death of the Freys’ sons T.J., 11, and Nathan Frey, 9, who loved animals and doing chores around the farm. On an unseasonably warm Saturday in November, the boys were playing outside when they ventured onto the ice of a farm pond and fell through.
“It was an incredible experience to open the mail and find donations from near and far,” recalls John Walsh, principal of St. Malachy School, where the boys attended. “It’s a testament to the character and integrity of Tom and Leisa Frey.”
Auction Outreach. For the past 16 years, the Freys have operated Creston Livestock Auction, which sold 58,000 cattle in 2014. Over that time, they’ve nurtured acquaintances and business associations from the far reaches of the cattle industry.
The family’s tragedy occurred just four days ahead of Creston Livestock’s special fall feeder calf sale. News of the accident spread fast, and it led friends, neighbors and competitors to rally around them.
“People put their own lives and businesses on hold to come and help us,” Tom remembers. “For that, we’ll be forever grateful.”
To help the Freys in their time of need, though, farmers and ranchers had to do more than ship calves or harvest crops. Livestock auctions take special skills and experience, and much of a cattle producer’s income can ride on a sale day.
“One of our biggest concerns was not to let our customers down,” Tom says. A long list of cowboys and cowgirls from competing livestock auctions pitched in. “They put crews together to come help sort cattle and secured a tremendous group of auctioneers to sell the cattle.”
Donations Benefit School. The auctioneers included 1996 World Champion Auctioneer Lanny Ireland and 2011 champion Charley Cummings. In a memorable exchange, a steer the Sporleder family donated for auction to benefit the T.J. and Nathan Frey Memorial Fund was sold, donated back to the auction and sold again. The auction was briefly suspended as bidders took turns calling out their number and naming their contribution.
Sale day generated more than $53,000, though donations continued to be sent to the memorial fund for weeks. The funds have been donated to St. Malachy School and now total more than $75,000.