ASHLAND, Mo. – Months of feeding, grooming and training 4-H Boer goats pay off for Riley Tade when he goes to the 116th annual American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City in late October.
Like any other 16-year-old country boy, he practices roping, loves a good auction, and raises animals for 4-H and FFA projects.
Tade’s cerebral palsy affects his motor skills and causes migraine headaches. He uses a walker or wheelchair when tired or on unstable ground.
Like other youth with special needs, he shines in 4-H. His smile is as big as his cowboy hat and flashes as bright as his belt buckle when he talks about his 4-H project.
University of Missouri Extension 4-H specialist Patty Fisher says Tade is among a growing number of 4-H members with special needs. 4-H attracts a diverse membership because it offers projects in traditional agriculture, robotics, mapping and other topics related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she says.
After being inside a classroom during the day, he enjoys doing chores on the family farm. He moves through the barn on a rolling stool, scoops feeds, scrubs water buckets and trains baby goats to lead even before they are weaned. The goats reward him with curious nibbles, nudges and attention-getting bleats.
“I’m tough as nails,” he says when talking about the hard work and physical challenges of raising animals.
Tade has been in 4-H for more than five years. He belongs to Englewood Hustlers 4-H, the same club his mother and grandmother belonged to when they were young. His father and aunt were in 4-H in Lucerne, Mo.
His father says it was important for him that his son join 4-H. Members and their families share a love of agriculture, hard work and helping one another through activities such as fairs and shows.
Tade has strong family support. His parents, Steve and Jennifer Tade, and all four grandparents are heavily involved in his activities.
Jennifer says 4-H members and their families help him, even though their animals will be in competition with theirs. Support from the 4-H community builds his self-confidence and leadership skills, she says.
Riley shares the excitement when his friends show as well. “He’s just as excited as when his friends win as if he won,” Steve says.
At shows, friend and neighbor Creighton Sapp helps him lead the goats with a special harness made by Riley’s dad, a graduate of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Young Tade is learning skills and making connections through 4-H to prepare him for a future in agriculture.
After high school graduation, he plans to stay on the farm with his parents, goats, horses and dogs. There’s no place else he would rather be. “I’m a farm boy,” he says.
To learn more about 4-H for youth with disabilities, contact Fisher at 573-324-5464 or FisherP@missouri.edu, or visit http://extension.missouri.edu/4h/.
The youth development program of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, 4-H empowers 6 million young people in the United States. In partnership with 110 universities, 4-H’s life-changing, researched-based programs are available through 4-H clubs, camps, and after-school and school enrichment programs in every county and parish in the U.S.