By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Turkey candidates start scratching for funds

Jeff Yates, a 911 dispatcher, will represent the See Ya Later Foundation. Sandy Haw will compete for Henderson House, where she works as a family advocate. Dr. Derek Rains, an orthopedic surgeon, will represent the Willamette Valley Cancer Foundation. Dawn Vyette Witt will represent Homeward Bound Pets, where she serves as events coordinator.

The candidates and their supporters will make their group debut at the UFO Festival Parade, set for Saturday, May 18. They will hold individual fundraisers in addition to participating in the annual Biggest Turkey Bachelor Auction in June and Turkey Rama lip sync contest in early July.

The one who raises the most money will be crowned following the lip sync contest. The proceeds will be divided among the four charities. 

Yates volunteered to represent See Ya Later after seeing first-hand what one of its programs does.

When his daughter, Allison, was going through a medical crisis, his entire family was “adopted” by SYL’s Seeds of Hope, which helps families with medical needs by providing groceries, gifts, respite activities and other support. Yates said Seeds of Hope continued to be a support after Allison succumbed in 2010.

He said he hopes to use his turkey candidacy to spread the word about the See Ya Later Foundation’s current programs — including Seeds of Hope, Scotty’s Playhouse and sports camps and scholarships — and future plans. Some of the money he raises will go toward SYL’s planned Champions Center, a new facility that will offer indoor and outdoor sports and exercise activities for young people.

“My family loves living in this community,” Yates said.

He and his wife and younger daughter, Keala, enjoy visiting local parks, the aquatic center and Scotty’s Playhouse, where Yates is a regular volunteer. They are active in the Nazarene Church on the Hill and the Great Hunt 4 God.

Haw offered to represent Henderson House, where she has worked for 13 years. “I’m willing to be silly and have fun for the cause,” she said.

Henderson House “takes a stand against all forms of violence and oppression while providing services and support for victims of domestic and sexual violence,” she said. A strong believer in those causes, she wants to raise lots of money for it’s programs.

Haw said she loves living and working in McMinnville. She also likes exploring different cultures, and dreams of visiting Mongolia someday.

Witt became the Homeward Bound Pets candidate after enjoying the Biggest Turkey contest during her 18 years in McMinnville. Now she’s excited to be taking part.

It’s an opportunity not only to raise money for animals, but also to raise awareness of the no-kill, no-cage shelter that has served Yamhill County for 38 years. In addition to providing homes for animals and helping them be adopted, Homeward Bound organizes a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for the community.

“I want peple to feel free to have a conversation about Homeward Bound Pets at any time and to make them feel they can be part of Homeward Bound Pets in any capacity,” she said. “We are all after the same thing, to end homelessness for dogs and cats.”

Homeward Bound Pets exists solely on donations, she said. It raises money through its thrift shop and special events, from car washes to a dinner and auction, and accepts direct donations of cash, pet food, laundry detergent and other supplies.

Witt is married with three stepchildren, six step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren. She also has two cats, Precious and Pita.

Rains, a University of Washington School of Medicine graduate, came to McMinnville in 2012 to work at Willamette Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. He volunteered to be a turkey candidate because he is “a strong believer in giving back to his community and this is a great way to get involved and support others.”

In addition, of course, he wants to bring exposure and support to the cancer foundation, which serves local cancer patients and their families.

Rains also is team physician for McMinnville High School and Linfield College athletes. In addition to being a turkey candidate, he is director and physician volunteer for a free sports medicine clinic on Saturday mornings.

He and his wife and daughters enjoy exploring nature. He likes fly fishing, backpacking, mountain biking and skiing.

The Biggest Turkey Contest this year is presented by Oil Can Henry’s and endorsed by McMinnville Sunrise Rotary and Recology Western Oregon.

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