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Equal opportunity enjoyment at Jefferson County Fair

August 24, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

LEETOWN, W.Va. - Each year, the Jefferson County Fair gives dozens of youths the joy of showing farm animals they have worked to raise over the year and to enjoy each other's camaraderie.

Now, fair organizers are extending that opportunity to a new group of youths: those with disabilities.

This year's fair, which opened Aug. 19, marked the beginning of the Special Lamb Project, where 4-H members are paired with disabled children to raise livestock, said Jefferson County Extension 4-H agent Shanna Dick.

This year, three 4-H members each are paired with a disabled child to raise a market lamb to be sold at a livestock sale Friday at 7:30 p.m., Dick said.

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The three pairs of youths started their projects in October by learning about animal ethics, record keeping and feeding, said Dick, who organized the program.

The teams received their animals in May and the lambs were raised on the property of the 4-H member, Dick said.

Dick said she wanted to start the program because she believed it would be an effective way to help children with disabilities learn life skills such as responsibility and money management.

Margaret Liskey said she sees enjoyment in the eyes of her 8-year-old niece, who has cerebral palsy.

Jordan Liskey enjoys running her hand over the wool on the lambs and she giggles during the animal's bath time, her aunt said.

The three pairs showed their lambs Sunday and the crowd gave them enthusiastic applause, Margaret Liskey said.

She was awed by it. She joined in and clapped, too," Margaret Liskey said.

Disabled children are not the only ones who benefit from the Special Lamb Project, Margaret Liskey said.

Children without disabilities might act gruff or standoffish with disabled children, but Liskey said she believes the project will teach children to be patient with disabled children.

Samantha Cogle, 12, who was paired with Jordan, knows what it has done to her.

"I felt I got closer to her," Samantha said.

The Special Lamb is similar to Saddles and Smiles, another program for disabled children organized by Dick.

In Saddles and Smiles, disabled children are brought to the fairgrounds on a regular basis to ride horses, Dick said. In the rides, the disabled child sits in the saddle and one parent walks along on one side of the horse and a 4-H club member walks along on the other side, Dick said. Another 4-H member leads the horse.

In the winter months, the rides are given at a private indoor arena in Charles Town, W.Va., Dick said.

The Saddles and Smiles program includes an educational component in which the children learn about animal care, Dick said.

Now that two programs have been started, more than 60 disabled children are involved in 4-H, Dick said.

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