OGDEN, Utah (AP) — The crowd erupted in applause and began chanting his name as 13-year-old Tucker Doak entered the ring at Weber County's Fair to auction off his hog.
"So many people were trying to buy that pig," said Plain City resident Tammy McKean. "Everyone felt (Tucker's) love and wanted to give it back. We were among a whole bunch of people who were on the same page."
According to medical specialists, the severely autistic Doak, of Warren, was not expected to survive much beyond his first birthday. He also suffers from a form of dwarfism that has not been specifically diagnosed, and has frequent temporal focal seizures, said his mother, Jamie Doak.
But from birth, young Tucker Doak has defied the odds. The boy that doctors said would never walk or talk learned to walk at age 5 1/2, and now says a few words, including "I love you." He also learned to ride a bicycle.
"He's not shy at all, he loves people, he's a constant goer that doesn't nap," Jamie Doak said of her middle child.
Both of Tucker Doak's parents — father Tucker and mother Jamie — work full time. He has an older sister, McKlay Doak, who is 15, and 8-year-old brother Rylan Doak.
This was the Doak's family first year participating in the fair's 4-H Junior Livestock program.
"I've been around it my whole life, but had never done it before," Jamie Doak said. "I didn't know if it was the place for a special-needs child like Tucker."
It became quite evident that the fair's livestock ring was precisely Tucker's place on Aug. 9. He and Hazel, the 271-pound hog he'd nurtured for several months, stole the show and hearts, capping the day's events with a special touch that those in attendance will not soon forget.
"He's got a very powerful spirit," Tammy McKean said. "And she's quite a mother — such an example to parents for not letting anything stop you."
McKlay came up with the idea to raise a pig, Jamie Doak said, and young Tucker took the task to heart, forming a strong bond with the animal.
In July, he had to undergo reconstructive surgery, which meant Tucker would be wearing three casts at fair show time. But those challenges did little to damper the youth's exuberance.
"McKlay was bawling when it was time to sell (Hazel). We go into the showroom with Tucker . . . and 300 to 400 people were yelling his name," Jamie Doak said. "He loved it and started blowing kisses."
It wasn't long before Jamie Doak's tears also began to flow as an all-out bidding war ensued, driving Hazel's price up to $10.50 per pound. Other hogs had been selling for $4 to $5 per pound.
Stacy Skeen, special event coordinator for the Weber County Fair, said that Hazel was the top-selling hog that day.
The McKeans managed to stay on top of the bid and came away with Hazel. Their plan is to have her slaughtered — which is part of the required process — and then deliver the meat back to the Doak family.
"We call it a project. Kids get a lot out of it," Mike McKean said of the hands-on training gained through participation in the Junior Livestock program.
The program teaches youth to take responsibility for the care of their animals and also to manage money. For many, such projects provide a nest egg for college and other future expenses.
"We were in it for the experience," Jamie Doak said, adding that one of the hardest tasks some parents face is watching their special-needs children sit on the sidelines.
"Here, he was the participant. He had to figure out what works for him and how to do it," Jamie Doak said. "He raised his pig and did it his way."
Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net