The 2019 Delaware County Fair featured the inaugural Animal and Me Show in which people with special needs were matched up with county 4-H kids.
“Animal and Me is a program that we’ve seen other counties do,” said Laryssa Hook, Delaware County OSU Extension 4-H/Youth Development educator. “What I like about this is that it provides kids opportunities to work with someone different from them and learn to meet the needs of others who might do things differently.”
According to Hook, the 4-H program currently accommodates and works with kids with disabilities.
“We’re already serving some kids with disabilities in our youth population,” she said. “Reaching out to the adult population makes it a neat combination.”
Looking to offer the opportunity in Delaware County, Hook reached out to Morgan Jolliff, marketing and communications representative for The Alpha Group. Jolliff spent the majority of her younger years in the Delaware County 4-H program.
“She has show experience, so it made a natural partnership for us to try this for the first time here,” Hook said.
Jolliff, who has been with The Alpha Group for a year, said Hook contacted her about doing the program while she was still in her intern program.
“At a young age I started showing, and to now bring this into the industry that I’m a part of is very heartwarming and a privilege,” Jolliff said. “We had been talking about it a little bit before. Once I started working for The Alpha Group, we said we needed to do it for sure.”
Jolliff added it was great to see everyone having fun at the show, which was held Friday at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
“Everyone gets a participation award, and we have goodie bags for everyone,” she said. “Hopefully, there will be many more shows to come.”
During the show, which was held inside the Junior Fair Show Arena, individuals with special needs were introduced to chickens, rabbits, horses, goats, alpacas, llamas, dogs, and a dairy heifer by their 4-H counterparts. But, not wanting to overwhelm the people with special needs and understanding the capacity of the show arena, Hook and Jolliff limited the number of participants.
“Twenty is about capacity for this barn is what we anticipated and it is,” Hook said. “With a first-time event like this, I think it’s good to keep some parameters.”
Though the number of participants was limited, Hook said other area agencies serving people with special needs were invited to come and enjoy the show.
How much fun was it?
Well, Kasen Knapp, a 4-H kid who normally shows cattle at the fair, said he wanted to help with the show. Instead of bringing a steer, he taught Mustafa Qutiefam, a special needs individual, how to show the family’s 19-year-old quarter horse, Sunny. He said Sunny was a very calm horse and would do well with a stranger holding the lead.
As for Qutiefam, he said he had never been so close to a horse before, and he wasn’t afraid of the Sunny either. After a brief instruction from Knapp, Qutiefam led Sunny around the ring like he had been doing it all his life.
Makenzie Levings, a 4-H member, shared her knowledge and her rabbit, Mazikeen, with Macy Arthur, who did nothing but smile the whole time she was near the timid bunny, which had been around people with special needs before as part of a program called Pet Pals.
“This is the first year doing this, but I think it will go well,” Levings said.
The Alpha Group of Delaware, Inc. provides programs and services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.