Some people come into your life and they become more than friends, they become part of your family. Jane Harting was family to Ron and Rebecca Yoder who operate Elite Service Inc. in Denver, PA – a flatbed and conestoga trucking company that was started by Rebecca’s folks, Ron and Lynne Cover, in 1987. Sadly, Jane, who worked at Elite, passed away four years ago, but the company continues to have a charity event – the Jane Harting Cancer Benefit and Picnic – each year in her honor.
Jane started working with Lynne as the office manager not long after they incorporated in 1987. Jane had a way of touching people and became so much more than just an employee. She was a Sunday School teacher who also later became “grandma” to Ron and Rebecca’s kid’s – Kayla (26), Olivia (23) and Dylan (16). The passion for the business began for Ron and Rebecca when they both worked for the company while they were still in high school. These high school sweethearts went on to get married on June 27, 1992, and there were six trucks in their wedding precession.
In October 2015 Jane had stomach pain for four months before she went to the doctor and found out that it was a tumor. At first, they thought that she was going to be able to beat this. She was diagnosed in November and she fought hard, but by February she told her Elite family that she knew she wasn’t going to make it as the tumor continued to grow. There was nothing they could do. She took care of so much at the company, including payroll and fuel taxes, and she wanted to be sure that it would all be taken care of when she was gone.
The first show they had four years ago was put together thinking that Jane would be there, and it would be getting friends together to help raise money for her expenses. Sadly, that wasn’t meant to be, as Jane passed away three months prior to the show. The show went on, with a small portion of the money going to Jane’s family. Her family wanted the rest of the money to be donated to the local group HELP THE FIGHT, so they could use it to help other families who were still fighting cancer. This has become the cause that they choose to give the money they raise at the show to each year. If you would like more information, you can contact HELP THE FIGHT by calling (717) 455-7095.
That first year, they went to local businesses to get donations for a raffle and silent auction. They weren’t sure if they would do the show again but, as you can see, the decision was made to hold the benefit in their dear friend’s memory each year and use the money to help as many families as possible battling and struggling with this dreaded disease.
This is not a typical truck show where everyone comes hoping to take home a first-place trophy or Best of Show. Rebecca told me, “This show is not just about the trucks, it’s about the charity, camaraderie and community.” The show was started four years ago to help make something good come out of something so sad. I know that drivers are a unique group of people, and they will step up to the plate to help a worthy cause, and in this case, they have.
Last year, my boyfriend John convinced me that I needed to attend this benefit and I am so glad that it worked out I could be there. It reminded me of a family reunion that you want to go to. Everyone pitches in, and all the chicken, pork and hot dogs are donated at cost, and the BBQ chicken and smoked pulled pork were delicious! Sides are catered by Wegman’s Catering, and cupcakes are made by Rebecca’s sister, Diana Porter, who is the company IT person (John, her husband, is the company Maintenance Director). The “Elite Family” includes everyone in the office, the shop and the drivers. Jane’s son Matt has worked as a mechanic there for 15 years.
This year there were over 100 items donated to the raffle and auction. Unlike that first year, when they had to ask people for donations, now people come to them with all kinds of things and are happy to donate for the cause. This year they raised $16,000 that went to help 20 families. Their shop in Denver, PA is a perfect venue for this event. The shop is huge and immaculate, with lots of room for the tables, allowing all the people to sit, eat and visit with old friends – and make new ones.
There are activities for everyone. Last year, a board with a bit of the cab and bunk of Ron’s pink and white truck has a hole cut where the driver window should be, and Ron becomes the target for pie throwing! There is a dunk tank, snow cones and face painting. Ron and Rebecca’s son Dylan goes in the dunk tank, while their daughters, Kayla and Olivia, take turns each year doing the face painting. There is a table set up for the little ones there, and they have truck coloring books and crayons, along with paper airplanes to fly.
When I saw Rebecca’s recent post on Facebook thanking everyone for all they did to make this year’s show another record breaker, I wished that we could have been there. Seeing all the pictures of the trucks and the fun everyone was having, made me sad to have missed it, but happy that it was another great year. Rebecca made a comment on a picture about how she thought Jane was happy with what they were doing – it was a beautiful picture of the sunset and trucks, to which she figured Jane had something to do with. Remembering someone like this and using their name to help so many says how special the friendship was.
Rebecca told me that it was when Jane was sick that she gave her a voice. She still has that voice, even though she is gone, through Facebook posts, thank you notes and letters. Rebecca did this when Jane was sick and has continued to share her words ever since. Many of the cancer patients and families they have helped often speak at the event, and it gets emotional. But this is what the event is all about – getting friends and family together to help people. If that sounds good to you, join them next year at the show on June 13, 2020. I hope this event continues to grow and help people in Jane Harting’s memory.