Just five years ago, doctors thought Missy Pendleton might never again be able to walk again.
But there she stood Saturday morning at the Sonoma County Fair, her triumph over a life-threatening infection on proud display as she sold two lambs that earned top honors at this year’s Junior Livestock Auction.
Pendleton, 17, an Analy High School senior and member of Sebastopol Future Farmers of America, received thunderous applause from the auction audience as the announcer spoke of the teenager’s near-death experience and her decision to donate the proceeds from her sale this year of her champion lamb.
Pendleton was just 12 years old when she was hospitalized as a result of a flesh-eating bacteria that entered her body after she cut her leg on a sheep stand at her family’s farm. She said she spent 45 days at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and doctors performed 14 surgeries on her.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to walk or do anything again,” Pendleton said. “I’m here now, walking perfectly fine and showing my sheep again.”
Pendleton’s Supreme Champion lamb, a Hampshire, sold to Northern Electric Inc. for $19 a pound, $3 more than last year’s top champion. Pendleton is donating the proceeds, nearly $3,000 to the Oakland children’s hospital that cared for her.
“They saved my life, and they deserve it,” Pendleton said. “I like giving back.”
Pendleton also exhibited the FFA Reserve Grand Champion, a crossbred that sold to Mead Clark Lumber Co. for $32 a pound, or $4,960.
She said she was grateful and “couldn’t be any happier” with how well her animals performed.
Teejay Lowe, the former CEO of G&G Supermarkets and current fair board member, called Pendleton a model auction participant owing to her proven desire to give back to her community. G&G, which was sold to Safeway last year, was a regular bidder in the Junior Livestock Auction, and Lowe was there again in his personal capacity Saturday, intending to buy two lambs.
“It builds great character,” Lowe said. “Ultimately, we need to support these kids to make sure that agriculture stays strong in Sonoma County, and that’s what this auction is all about.”
For Grace Nonella of Forestville 4-H, Saturday’s auction was a bittersweet moment. The 17-year old Santa Rosa resident has been involved in 4-H most of her life, but she’ll soon head off to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she plans to study agriculture business. Her 4-H Grand Champion lamb, a crossbred, sold to Redhawk Glass for $17.50 a pound.
“People always ask me, ‘Isn’t it so hard for you to say goodbye? It never has been, ‘cause it’s my 11th year. I’ve gotten used to it,” Nonella said. “But it is (hard) this year, ‘cause I’m never going to have my own lambs again.”
The fair also had rabbit and goat auctions Saturday. Swine and poultry auctions are scheduled for Thursday and ag mechanics and beef auctions are scheduled for Friday.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or email@example.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.