Each day is a new opportunity to help others. Reinke Manufacturing’s daily work involves putting the finest irrigation products and technologies in the hands of growers around the world. But one day last fall, Reinke and one of its dealers in Nebraska had the opportunity to install a minipivot that did far more than just irrigate crops.
At a young age, Blaize DeGroff was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by medical problems, developmental delays, and learning challenges. Those with Williams Syndrome are often friendly and talkative, with outgoing personalities. That describes 9‑year-old DeGroff perfectly.
According to his mother, Jessica, Blaize is fascinated with water. And living in Ord, Nebraska, that means he also loves pivots. “It started with water: sinks, hoses, any type of water that he could watch flow,” she says. “We live in the country, and my dad is a farmer, so there are lots of pivots around.” During the summer, the family will drive miles down country roads each evening to watch pivots watering the fields. Blaize enjoys seeing the water as it moves out over the corn and listening to the end gun. His dad, Michael, tried to build a pivot out of PVC pipe, and his mom bought an end gun and hooked it up to a hose. But it wasn’t the same. It just didn’t move like a pivot.
A family friend had seen a Reinke pivot at the Nebraska State Fair and wondered whether the company might be able to help the DeGroffs. She reached out to Reinke, telling the company about the boy and his love of pivots.
“When we were first contacted about Blaize and his fascination with pivots, we weren’t sure how this would all come together, but we knew we were going to do something,” says Chris Roth, the president of Reinke. “Instead of his family having to drive and go find running pivots each night, we wanted to put one in his yard.”
Reinke knew that one of its dealers had made some smaller minipivots in the past, so it reached out to them for help. The team at Holdrege Irrigation, about 100 miles from the DeGroffs, loved the idea and got to work planning to build a pivot small enough to fit the family’s property but with all the movement you’d see in a full-sized pivot.
Alan Loschen, the service and structure technician at Holdrege Irrigation, was charged with the task. It wasn’t going to be easy, but knowing who it was for, he knew he had to find a way to make it work. “It’s the smallest pivot I’ve ever worked on,” Mr. Loschen says, “but it was also the most important.” Mr. Loschen’s minipivot is a working, one-fifth-scale replica of a complete Reinke pivot, consisting of about 50 parts, including a working motor, a 1.5‑inch water pipe, and adjustable sprinkler heads.
On an unseasonably warm day in early November, Mr. Loschen, Mr. Roth, and Tim Schmidt, the vice president of Holdrege Irrigation, drove to Ord to set up the surprise gift at the DeGroffs’ home. They installed the custom-made 36‑foot minipivot, complete with a Reinke end sign and owner’s plaque.
For Blaize, the day began like any other. He went to school, learning with his classmates and talking with his friends. After school, his mother picked him and his siblings up, and they drove home. Blaize didn’t know what was waiting for him there.
As the children came running down the hill from the driveway, Blaize and his siblings saw the pivot shooting water across the property. Laughter filled the air as the group yelled in excitement.
“When we saw his face light up, we knew it was worth it,” says Mr. Roth. “I’ve got kids. To see their faces light up and smile—you know that almost any amount of work is worth it to make that happen.”
For his parents and the team who created the minipivot, hearts swelled with pride and most of them had to fight back the tears.
“When he got home from school and he came running up to it, he was really excited,” Mr. Loschen says. “Once he figured out it was his, he was having a hoot playing in the water from the end gun.”
Mr. Loschen and Mr. Schmidt showed Blaize and his family how the pivot worked and how to change out the sprinklers on the span. Then, they showed them the owner’s plaque, and Blaize saw his name etched into the metal.
When Blaize finally went into the house to change into some dry clothes, his parents had a chance to thank the group. “Every night, we have to drive around and look at pivots; now he has one in his backyard,” Jessica says. “We are overwhelmed and thankful. Never in a million years did I think anyone would go out of their way to give him something like this. It means so much to him, and to us. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts.”