by John Mueller
Anyone who knows Joe Voss well easily imagines him spending his free time working on race cars for race nights at Arlington Raceway. But these days, Voss is committing his energy to a more important effort, recovering from cancer.
He’s been unable to regularly go to the track this season. The surgery earlier this spring and chemotherapy treatments he regularly endures have sapped his strength. Voss misses the friends, the competition, the smell and the roar of the crowd as racers fight for the checkered flag.
“Being at the track is Joe’s life,” said Holli Reimers, a Belle Plaine resident and one of the people organizing the benefit. She and her family have known the Voss family for years.
In 2009, the 47-year-old Voss was diagnosed with colon cancer. Earlier this year, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. A benefit to help his family deal with medical costs until he’s able to get back to work is Saturday (June 16 beginning at 11 a.m.) at the racetrack on the Sibley County Fairgrounds in Arlington.
The benefit includes a free-will offering pork sandwich dinner, two silent auctions, kids games, live music, a bake sale, stock car races, an after-race party and more live music by the JNH Band (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.).
The first of the two silent auctions include items donated by area businesses. The second silent auction primarily includes racing items. Minnesota Vikings’ players Percy Harvin and Christian Ponder have also donated autographed items for the silent auction.
A second benefit is planned for July 10. Pizza Plus of Belle Plaine is donating a percentage of its sales toward the Voss family when customers mention the family when placing an order.
Though Kathy and Joe Voss are overwhelmed by the effort behind the benefit, Reimers can’t imagine not organizing it and holding the benefit at Arlington Raceway. Having grown up around cars, primarily at the auto salvage yards his father operated in Belle Plaine and Green Isle, Joe Voss is a fixture in the local racing community. He’s been involved in racing at the track for about 30 years. Voss has helped many racing enthusiasts with his time, parts, even a car to get their start in racing.
Voss is renowned for a quick trip from the pits to his shop in Arlington to pick up parts a racer might need. It doesn’t matter, Reimers said, that the racer he’s helping might be a competitor. The Voss family has also helped Reimers’ sons – JJ and Joe get into racing – by giving them their first go-karts.
“They (Voss family members) help everybody out around the track,” she said. “If you need something and Joe can help you out, he’ll gladly do it. He’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”
Joe and Kathy’s four children are involved in racing as well. He’s proud of their success but sad he’s been unable to attend the races to cheer them on and help them out. “You can tell he really misses it,” Reimers said.
Voss is three years into his fight with cancer. At first, he dismissed feeling poorly. But the disease started spreading and intensifying. When the bleeding started, he couldn’t dismiss the symptoms any longer. His first surgery was in the spring of 2009. Despite the powerful medications and chemotherapy, it spread to his liver. Earlier this spring, surgeons removed about 70 percent of his liver during an operation aimed at slowing the cancer’s progress. Additional chemotherapy treatments are also scheduled. The chemotherapy and residual effects of the powerful chemicals forced Kathy Voss to close down the home daycare operation she has run for 13 years.
Joe’s employer, Jordan Transformer, has allowed him to work as his strength between treatments permits. Voss is grateful for the company’s flexibility. He expects to be back to work in mid-July. Until then, he relaxes around the house, spends time with family and goes for walks with his dog. The walks keep his internal organs working.
Doctors have told the family if surgeons were successful in removing as much or all of the cancer as possible, they believe his quality of life will be good for 10 years, hopefully more. He looks forward to the benefit and seeing many friends and supporters Saturday.
“They’re good people,” he said.
Additional information on the benefit and Voss’s condition are available at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook (Joe Voss Benefit) and www.caringbridge.com/visit/joevoss. Monetary donations can be dropped off at CornerStone Bank in Belle Plaine.