The following is a true account by Wendy Withey that occurred just after the Randolph Fair began this year.
The 4-H pledge: I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.
Do you know what 4-H is all about? As a 10 year member of Portage County Saddle Horse 4-H in my youth and now having a niece who is in the same club I was, I do know what it’s about. But recently, the true meaning of 4-H became even more transparent to my family. Sometime during the morning of August 20, my brother’s family’s home caught fire. My brother was the only one at home since my sister-in-law and nieces decided to camp at the fair and my brother decided to sleep at home one more night before all the festivities started.
After the heart-wrenching ordeal was over and the fire departments left the scene, it was just the family sitting in the yard wondering what our next course of action would be. We decided to get the animals out that had survived and situated in a temporary home, get cleaned up, and return to the horse barn at the fair. This is where the loyalty and service from my days as a 4-H’er came into play. I have never heard the words “How can we help?” or “What can I do?” or “What do they need? I have some clothes that might fit,” said to me so many times. A man came up to my brother, shook his hand, expressed his sorrow for their loss and left him with a $50 bill: a complete stranger. A lifelong friend and current advisor of the club along with his daughter, immediately set to work to arrange a benefit “cake walk” during the horse show Thursday. In one day, donations from local businesses and other 4-H families were collected in such abundance it was mind-blowing.
Fast forward to noon Thursday, August 22. People started to congregate around the main horse arena to pay it forward to my brother’s family. I cannot tell you how many people were in that arena. I lost count and so did everyone else. I can tell you that it brought tears to our eyes. Kids gave up their amusement ride money to donate, adults who knew me as a youth were in that line, and complete strangers put their hard earned money in the bucket at the entrance gate to help a member of their horse community. It is something we will never forget. Thanks to their generosity, over $500 was raised from the event. My brother and his wife have had people offer places for them to live, at no charge, while their home is being rebuilt! Another Saddle Horse 4-H club offered to help clean out the house when the time comes (insurance coverage is limited and in order to save money, we are going to remove the contents of the house ourselves).
No one had to do anything, but the horse people would not sit back and let nothing happen. You see, they used their heads for clearer thinking: some very kind and generous people put their heads together to arrange this benefit. They used their hearts to be loyal to another horse person’s family. Some are offering their hands to be of a larger and greater service: helping others.
The people of Portage County are good people. If you need further proof, stay tuned as I will be writing about the services that three Churches in the Southeast School District offer to its residents.
I love living here, I am proud to say I am from Portage County, and most of all, I’m proud to say that I am an alumni of the Portage County Saddle Horse 4-H.
*Wendy Withey has been a lifetime resident of Portage County. She feels very blessed to have grown up in this caring community of people and will be sharing more heart-warming stories of the positive people, places, and organizations in future writings. Thank you, Wendy!