Pennsylvania teenager Reese Burdette of Windy Knoll View Farm was just five years old when she started showing cows by herself at local and state cow competitions. She remembers presenting her favorite cow, Pantene, at the Franklin County Fair as a winter calf.

Just a few years later, Pantene was at Reese’s side again as the 8-year-old hoisted herself from a wheelchair outside of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where Reese was recovering from critical injuries that she sustained in a tragic house fire.

Reese survived the fire, but her injuries posed new challenges. That visit with Pantene was a pivotal moment in Reese’s recovery, says her mother, Claire Burdette.

“When we started talking about the possibility that Reese could see her cow again, that was all she needed,” Claire says. “We told Reese, ‘Pantene won’t be used to seeing you sitting down. She’s used to seeing you standing next to her’ and that was all it took,” Claire says. “There is nothing like the love of an animal and the bond that you create. We saw that with Reese. Her cow, Pantene, gave her the drive and determination to get better.”

On that summer day in 2015, with the help of other dairy farmers and family members, Reese’s dad Justin brought Pantene to Baltimore. The hospital team planned a private event, where Reese could spend time with her cow under a tent on the hospital grounds.

As Reese remembers, it was her best day out of the 662 days that she spent in the hospital.

“I think Pantene understood a little bit about what was going on,” Reese recalls. “She was just super chill and very happy to see me. It was a very happy day.”

That special visit also allowed Reese’s doctors and nurses to learn about their young patient’s life, growing up on a dairy farm in Mercersburg.

“We fought so hard for Reese. Even when she wasn’t awake. She was in a coma for three months and we were her voice. With that visit, we were able to show the hospital staff about our lifestyle and what we were fighting for,” Claire says.

Reese added, “All of the people who were taking care of me got to meet Pantene and got a glimpse of what my life was like back at home. We were all fighting to get me home and visiting my cow gave us all a little boost.”

Helping bring Pantene to Baltimore was certainly not the only support their dairy farming friends provided to the Burdette family after the fire. Claire shares stories of help with farm chores, homemade meals and even gas money so that Claire, Justin and Reese’s sister, Brinkley, could make the two-hour drive to Baltimore ensure someone was always with Reese.

Reese’s cousin, Maryland dairy farmer Austin Schwartzbeck of Peace & Plenty Farm in Union Bridge, explained that this is just what dairy farmers do for each other.

“The dairy industry is a tight knit community. We always look out for each other. After the fire, we all came together to help in the ways we could,” Schwartzbeck says. “The Burdettes are family, and we are glad Reese is back to her sassy self.”

Reese knows she’s part of a very strong and forward-thinking community.

“The dairy industry is a huge industry,” she says, “but when times are tough, everybody comes together and supports each other.  And even when times are good, we’re all cheering each other on.”

Reese is now 16 years old and actively participates in FFA and 4-H. She still loves working with her show cows and competing in the show ring.

She recently earned national recognition for cow showmanship, placing fifth in the 2022 Intermediate Division of the All-American Youth Showmanship Contest in Harrisburg, against nearly 200 other competitors.

Reese says she plans to continue working with cows at Windy Knoll Farm. She also wants to pursue a newfound love of horticulture.

“I am going to stay true to my roots in agriculture. I am very grateful that I get to grow up on this farm. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have all of these animals around me. I love them,” she smiles, “and I like to think they love me back.”

Learn more about the Burdettes and Windy Knoll View Farm by watching their episode of “This American Dairy Farmer” below.