McKINNEY — Collin County 4-H is offering a unique opportunity for special needs youth ages five to 18 to participate in a livestock show specially designed for them, said Chris Schraeder, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county agent for 4-H and youth development.
“This is a community event designed to expose special needs children to livestock programs and youth-oriented clubs in Collin County,” Schraeder said. “The theme is ‘Celebrate the Possibilities’ and that’s what the event is intended to do – celebrate the possibilities available to special needs youth.”
Schraeder said the special livestock show will take place from 2 – 5 p.m. Oct. 20 at Myers Park and Event Center in McKinney, immediately following the Collin County 4-H Livestock Show, which will have more than 400 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors, he said. From 25 to 30 special needs youth from Collin and surrounding counties are expected to participate in the Celebrate the Possibilities event.
“I exhibit livestock all over the state and often see special needs kids at these shows, and many of them are very interested in the animals and how to show them,” said Sierra Francis, 17, a Collin County 4-H member and senior at McKinney Boyd High School. “I thought there shouldn’t be any reason why special needs kids couldn’t exhibit at a livestock show, so I wanted to coordinate one as a project for 4-H, FFA and a Gold Award project for Girl Scouts.”
Francis said all special needs participants will receive a free T-shirt and stuffed lamb, and that trophies will be given to those who have the best showing.
“We want the kids to see there are no limits on what they can do, and that includes exhibiting livestock at shows,” she said.
A livestock show is a rich Texas tradition where youth are able to exhibit animals, including pigs, cattle, sheep and goats, said Derrick Bruton, AgriLife Extension 4-H program specialist at the AgriLife Extension district office in Dallas.
“At the Celebrate the Possibilities event, participating youth will be assigned a 4-H, FFA or Girl Scout volunteer mentor who will work hand-in-hand with the child and his or her family. Participants will get a tour of the Collin County livestock grounds and then will be introduced to the lambs they will be taught how to exhibit with their mentor, in their own livestock show.”
Bruton said mentoring would be based in the understanding that each child has different learning and physical abilities.
“The mentors will work closely with each child to make this a great experience,” he said.
The event is free to special needs children, but participants must be preregistered because of limited enrollment. The registration deadline is Oct.8.
To register a child or for more information, contact Sierra Francis at 972-984-1822 or SaFrancis@aol.com.