Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 7-23-12 |

Shelli Mader: Road to Ranching 7-23-12

Last week was one of the weeks that my family looks forward to all year — the county fair. Even though we think about it for months and know the fair date well in advance, somehow my daughter and I always seem to procrastinate on getting our open class projects done. This year was not different. To my credit, I did have my daughter start on her projects early, but during our unexpected move I got a little overwhelmed with all the stuff we had and threw away most of her art projects. So we had zero projects done at the beginning of July.

So, once again, my daughter and I were running around the morning of open class entries finishing up baking and gluing art projects. But, we had fun. There is nothing like bonding over cookie making at dawn!

The local county fair is in Scott City, so it was nice to be close to attend all the events we wanted to see. My six-year-old daughter’s favorite parts were the horse show and barrel racing. My three-year old boy loved the kids’ pedal tractor pull and the ever-popular “watch the tractor till the arena between classes”.

I loved the free beef barbeque and watermelon feed (no cooking supper for me!), but I think that my favorite part of the fair was meeting Nate Nowak. Nate made me realize something about 4-H that I had never thought about before — what a great activity it is for kids in wheelchairs.

Nate is a blonde-haired 10-year-old boy who loves 4-H. He shows pigs, does shooting sports and participates in many of the arts and crafts, foods and other projects that 4-H offers. The only way he is different from all the other kids is that he does it from a wheelchair.

Nate was born with spinda bifida, a disease that has left him paralyzed from the waist down. At birth, a three-inch section of Nate’s spinal cord just above his waist was exposed, leaving him unable to move his legs. By the time he was 4-years-old he had had 17 surgeries to cover his spinal cord and drain fluid off of his brain.

Today Nate is doing well, but still faces the challenge of life-long paralysis. He will never realize his dream of playing college basketball in Kansas, but 4-H has enabled him to gain confidence and have a level playing field to compete in dozens of contests with kids his age.

When Nate was 7 — old enough to be in 4-H — his older brother and sister were already competing, so his parents, Perry and Becky, decided to sign him up. They soon realized that there really isn’t hardly anything Nate can’t do in 4-H. The extension agents in the county have been great about making sure he has access to events without showing him favoritism. Nate has been able to show pigs and bucket calves in the arena with the other kids — including his two brothers and sister.

I was thoroughly impressed by the way that the local fair included Nate. Nate even got to do the pedal tractor pull — they strapped the weighted sled to his wheelchair.

Watching Nate compete last week not only reminded me how little I have to worry about in life, it also made me proud to see 4-H doing what it was intended to do – teach kids skills to be productive members of the community.

If you do have a disabled child in your life, I encourage you to get them involved in 4-H.

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