AMES, Iowa – You don’t have to ask many questions to learn what impact new special needs 4-H clubs are making. The leaders and parents of both clubs are eager to share, and all of them agree that despite the physical and mental disabilities of their members, there is no doubt their kids truly understand and live out the core essence of what it means to be a 4-H’er.
“To me, this club lives the 4-H motto and experience better than any club I’ve ever seen,” said Carol Freund, co-leader of the Scott County Hearts and Hands Club. “They are in it for all the right reasons. They want to learn. They want to make friends. They want to have fun, and they wouldn’t think of complaining.”
Mills County youth coordinator Stephanie Bowden agrees. She helps with the Resource Center 4-H Club in her county and claims “you can’t put the experience into words.”
““The boys live out all four ‘H’’s in every way,” she said. “First their heads – through their disability they have the ability to see new things. Then their hearts – 4-H is the love of their life. They bring a unique sense of important belonging to the club. Their hands – no matter how difficult a task is, they do it with 100 percent of their ability and don’t give up when they’re frustrated, and lastly their health. If they have a bad day they’re not allowed to come. It’s a boost to their mental health.”
There may only be two of them in the state so far, but the leaders of both clubs agree that there is a lot of potential for more and highly encourage counties to explore it. To Freund, it’s simply common sense.
“It’s an opportunity you can give these kids even though most wouldn’t think about 4-H,” she said. “We need to make people aware of this. 4-H is a place for special needs. Let’s make it possible so people can see what these kids can accomplish.”
To learn more about what the kids have already accomplished, read their stories:
About the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program
4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact your Iowa State University Extension county office at www.extension.iastate.edu/content/county-offices/ or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.