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A wish comes true: Granting child’s request part of hometown mission, Bobcat says

Connor Menard, 5, of Montrose, Minn., operates an A770 All-Wheel Steer Loader remote control package while Jason Buchholz, equipment logistics specialist for Bobcat, looks on, during the Bobcat Boot Camp at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on Tuesday. Carrie Snyder / The Forum2 / 5
Connor Menard, 5, of Montrose, Minn., operates an A770 All-Wheel Steer Loader remote control package while his parents Matt and Jill look on during the Bobcat Boot Camp at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on Tuesday. Menard, who has a rare blood disorder, asked to see where Bobcats were made as part of his wish for Make-A-Wish. Carrie Snyder / The Forum 3 / 5
Connor Menard, 5, of Montrose, Minn., operates an A770 All-Wheel Steer Loader remote control package during the Bobcat Boot Camp at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on Tuesday. Menard, who has a rare blood disorder, asked to see where Bobcats were made as part of his wish for Make-A-Wish. Carrie Snyder / The Forum 4 / 5
Bobcat factory employees performed a Bobcat loader square dance at a city park during Connor Menard’s visit to the Bobcat plant in Gwinner, N.D. Special to The Forum5 / 5

West Fargo - Connor Menard could have gone to Disney World or Hawaii. Instead, he wanted to go to Bobcat.

The 5-year-old from Montrose, Minn., chose a visit to the skid-steer manufacturer as his wish to be granted by the Make-a-Wish organization.

“He’s always loved Bobcats. When we go to the doctor’s office, he brings a bag of Bobcats. That’s what he plays with,” said his dad, Matt Menard.

The Menards don’t own a Bobcat skid-steer loader, but Matt said his brother uses one in the winter to plow, and gives Connor rides on it.

On Tuesday, Connor got to drive one by himself – remotely, that is.

He was the special guest at Bobcat boot camp, an event held four times a year for North American sales specialists to test equipment.

Flanked by Bobcat utility vehicles, the Menard family drove into the Red River Valley Fairgrounds here on Tuesday morning, where the sales reps from across the U.S. and Canada greeted Connor.

Connor could barely stand the formalities. “I want to go play,” he said, before turning down a doughnut.

Using a stationed remote control, Connor maneuvered an A770 All-Wheel Steer Loader around the fairgrounds. He grabbed tires with the grapple, trying to stack three on top of each other. After a while, he requested a bucket be put on the machine.

So what does he love about the Bobcat machinery? “They can pick dirt up,” said Connor, who turns 6 next month.

In 2012, Connor was diagnosed with hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES), a rare blood disorder that’s even more uncommon in children. Jill Menard said possible medications to treat the disorder aren’t recommended for use in children, limiting Connor’s options.

The family has been treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., but may be sent to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Matt Menard said.

The family’s Make-a-Wish fulfillment started with a send-off event Thursday at the Farm-Rite Equipment dealership in Dassel, Minn. On Monday, 150 workers greeted the family outside the Bobcat plant in Gwinner, N.D. They toured each area of the plant on golf carts, Jill Menard said, and after lunch saw the “Bobcat Square Dance,” which is performed by skid-steer loaders.

Matt Menard said Bobcat replied quickly to the Wish request, and he was amazed by the amount of support.

“That just shows to me they’re still a hometown company,” he said.

Local commitment

Rich Goldsbury, president of Bobcat and Doosan, North America and Oceania, described the Make-a-Wish request as heartening.

“It’s really a neat embodiment of what our product stands for,” he said.

Even with its South Korean ownership and global sales, Bobcat’s commitment to the local community is part of the company’s DNA, Goldsbury said.

Bobcat supports the United Way of Cass-Clay, held its first local Doosan Day of Caring event in June, and recently started offering grants to teachers to support science, technology, engineering and math education, he said.

To celebrate the production of its

1 millionth skid-steer loader this summer, the company launched “a million good deeds” initiative, contributing financially to community projects initiated by its dealers, which include 560 locations in North America, Goldsbury said.

Another example of local community support is the company’s sponsorship of the Bobcat North Dakota Open, an annual pro-am golf tournament, to be held this weekend at the Fargo Country Club.

Bobcat has been the corporate sponsor of the Open since 1984 and has contributed nearly $866,000 to the event, which supports the Village Family Service Center.

Village President and CEO Gary Wolsky said a 30-year relationship between a corporate entity and a nonprofit organization is nearly unheard of.

“They have continued without pause, and that’s a remarkable thing,” Wolsky said.

Sherri Richards

Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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