4-H Rally Day emphasizes diverse activities

The nation’s largest youth development and mentoring organization is looking for some new members. The only requirement is being between the ages of 5 to 19.

Saturday is Rally Day for Island County’s 4-H Club, a time for kids and parents to find out more about the organization’s activities and goals.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13 at Bell’s Farm in Coupeville, information will be available along with a petting zoo and other family friendly pursuits.

Clubs with the logo of 4-H, which stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health, are usually associated with pigs, horses and county fair competitions.

But 4-H is no longer just about farms and farming, said organizer George Lawson.

“It’s photography to fiber arts to electronics,” Lawson said. “There’s many possibilities. It’s the first time we’re doing something like this so people can get a ground level view of what 4-H is all about.”

The 4-H clubs of today focus on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering and technology, and animal science. Lawson and his wife oversee the 4-H club, Whidbey Island Hogs.

Lawson encourages families from throughout Whidbey Island to attend Rally Day, which is aiming to be set up like a carnival.

“We’re trying to reach the north end and the south end,” he said.

Nationally, 4-H is affiliated with cooperative extension systems of 110 universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture; some 6 million young people are enrolled in clubs across the country.

Engaging youth to reach their full potential by using a “learning by doing” model is its mission, according to its website.

Island County 4-H is coordinated by WSU Extension and overseen by a legion of volunteer adults who guide local clubs that focus on many kinds of animals, robotics and leadership.

Local clubs have names such as All American Puppy Paws, Rock ‘n Doodle Poultry, Artsy Animals (poultry, dogs crafts) Knight Riders (horses), Kool Kritters (cats, rabbits, guinea pigs) and Whidbey Island Homesteaders (goats).

In each club, participants can run for office, practice leadership roles, raise and manage the club’s money and pitch in with community service efforts.

Island County’s 4-H Teen Ambassadors is open to teens from seventh grade up. Youth improve communication skills, learn about leadership, prepare for college and/or a job and have opportunities to participate in many events around the state.

All adult volunteers undergo a background check, Lawson said.

Lawson is also a long-time volunteer with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue. The fire station plans to exhibit a new hands-on educational tool Saturday that teaches what to do in a burning house or building.

“It’s called the smokehouse and it’s an actual training facility for kids,” he said.

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