The special connection between humans and animals was never more evident than during the Gold Star Classic-AFR Special Needs Livestock Show, Aug. 30, at the Grady County fairgrounds in Chickasha.
“This is why we wanted to put on this livestock show, to provide an opportunity for special needs students to interact with and exhibit livestock,” said Terry Detrick, president of AFR/OFU.
The inaugural event featured 19 special needs students, mostly from the Grady County area. Each student was paired with two volunteers who helped lead the student and animal through the exhibit ring. Area 4-H and FFA members provided livestock for the show.
Medallions, banners and a stuffed animal replica were presented to each participant.
After showing their respective animals, the students had the opportunity to further interact with livestock in a separate petting farm corral. This area featured ponies, a baby lamb, pigs, goats and a bucket calf.
“Our youth are passionate about the livestock industry and they love caring for livestock so they wanted to share that passion with special needs students,” said Micaela Danker, AFR/OFU youth development coordinator.
The human-animal connection was important for the students, said Keith Alcorn, Alex, and father of a special needs son.
“This is just amazing, as it gives the students a chance to interact with the animals,” Alcorn said.
Debbie Fancher, special services coordinator and teacher at Alex Public Schools, brought five students to the livestock show.
“It’s very meaningful for these students to be around animals and other young people,” said Debbie Fancher, special services coordinator and teacher at Alex Public Schools. “They learn by touch, watching others, and become more like other kids, rather than different.”
Fancher said this is a great educational opportunity.
“One of my students said this was the first time she had touched a sheep and said it was soft and fluffy,” Fancher said. “So we will go back and do things with wool so she can make that connection.”
Fancher added the students really connected with the animals.
“Sometimes the student may find it difficult to communicate with people, but there is not that barrier with animals,” Fancher said. “They feel secure and happy when they are with the animals.”
Danker said the event showcased the tremendous caring nature and generosity of Oklahomans.
“We had 80 volunteers, mostly FFA and 4-H students, from around the state help shepherd the special needs students,” Detrick said.
“It’s really great these students wanted to give up their free time to come here and help with this event,” Danker said.
Payton Reynolds, a member of the Harrah FFA, said volunteer work is very rewarding.
“For me, to see the smiles on their faces, it just makes me smile too,” Reynolds said.
The Gold Star Classic-AFR Special Needs Livestock Show, Aug. 30, at the Grady County fairgrounds in Chickasha featured 19 special needs students, mostly from the Grady County area. Each student was paired with two volunteers who helped lead the student and animal through the exhibit ring. More than 80 volunteers from around the state helped with the event.