South Buffalo benefit truck pull raises $44,000 for former Freeport Area family

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Taylor Roles smiled as she sat in the South Buffalo Township fire hall eating a cupcake. It had pink and purple icing, two of the former Freeport Area student’s favorite colors. The dessert was part of a celebration Saturday for the volunteer fire department’s third annual benefit trailer and truck pull Oct.

16 in support of Taylor, 12. She has a rare form of epilepsy known as febrile infection related epilepsy, or FIRES. It’s so rare that it affects about one in 1 million children, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

The event took place on the 300-foot, red clay track behind the fire hall. “This meant the world to Taylor,” said her mother, Kim Roles. “It was her special day and she was over the moon over it the whole day. She’s been talking about it ever since. …

It was really a lot more than what I expected it to be. I think we were all surprised by just how many people showed up during terrible weather. It was so much fun.

Taylor had a blast. It was hard to get her to leave.” A few hundred people from several states donated money and time on a rain-soaked weekend last month.

The department was able to raise £44,000 to help with her future medical bills. “It makes me so happy that everybody came, and everybody cares for me,” Taylor said. Event organizer Erin Pflueger and other members of the fire department presented the check to the family Saturday evening.

Taylor and her family moved from the township to Aspinwall in August to be closer to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. On July 23, Taylor developed a fever. The next day, she began having seizures and was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital.

The following day, she was put in a medically induced coma. Taylor underwent two brain operations while she was in a coma. She was on palliative care, and doctors began preparing her family for the worst-case scenario.

The benefit pull marked one year since Taylor woke up from her coma. “The weather was against us completely this year,” Pflueger said. “The entire week leading up to it, our phones were ringing nonstop, people telling us to cancel and wanting to know a postponed date. That’s not who we are.

We set the date and we’re going to keep it no matter what, and we knew people would show up and people showed up. It turned out to be a pretty fun day.” There was a petting zoo, 50/50 and basket raffles as well as hoodie sales and a concession stand.

Donations continued to pour in after the event, with the last one received Thursday. Funds came from various sources with sponsorships made by local businesses such as Adams Petroleum Products Inc., Fox Trucking, King Trucking, Century Steel Erectors, Terry Bowser Excavating and Freeport Transportation Industries Inc. “I’m not surprised, but it still blows me away every time,” Pflueger said about the support. “For a rain day, that just shows rednecks like to play in the mud.”

The inaugural truck pull event in 2019 netted £30,000 for the family of Ella Conroy, a young township girl battling cancer. Last year’s event, which was in memory of the late Kevin Haas, raised about £46,000 for his daughter, Mackenzie. Haas, a friend of the fire department and the one who spearheaded the return of tractor pulls, died in May.

In 2019, Taylor joined her youth cheerleading squad to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the fire department’s first benefit tractor pull. Taylor is now a seventh grader in the Fox Chapel Area School District. A nurse from Preferred Home Health Care assists Taylor to, from and during school.

Roles said her daughter continues to improve. The family said their check will be placed in a special account through the Pennsylvania Treasury Department’s ABLE Savings Program. The goal is to eventually have funds available via a trust to cover costs once Taylor turns 18.

PA ABLE accounts do not impact eligibility for state health and disability-related benefits. More information about those accounts is available at Nominations for next year’s benefit pull will be accepted in the spring.

More information about township fire department activities is available on its Facebook page.