Triple recognition a grand slam for 4-H

Triple 4-H Diamond Clover Awards score big for Kent County 4-H youth

In baseball parlance, a field of play is called a’ diamond’ and a triple is almost as good as a home run.

But for three Delaware 4-H’ers, Garrett Geidel, Hannah O’Hara, and Spring Vasey, all from Kent County, earning simultaneous 4-H Diamond Clover Awards is nothing short of a grand slam.

The 4-H Delaware Diamond Clover Award, Delaware 4-H’s formal and most prestigious acknowledgment of exemplary community service, had previously been awarded four times to Sussex County 4-H youth.  In 2018, Kent County entered the field and swept the series, as Kent County 4-H’ers hit three line drives straight across the center field of community service.

Sussex’s early achievements are purely coincidence. Competition among counties is not a factor. The driving force in the process of earning a 4-H Diamond Clover Award is compassion and individual awareness of a community need and an effort to make a difference in that community. Giving and caring for others is the signature definition of what the ‘H” for ‘Heart’ means to a 4-H member.

“From the moment young 4-H members join our program, they are diamonds in the rough,” said Doug Crouse, Delaware 4-H program leader. “Early on, through their community clubs, 4-H youth are taught the value of community service. Service to others is truly the Heart beating in 4-H. Achieving the Diamond Clover Award embodies a journey of service that entails planning, networking, assessing a community need and then acting upon that need and making a difference. I am so very proud of Spring, Garrett, and Hannah.”

Kent County’s three recipients were formally recognized at April’s 4-H Legislative Day at Legislative Hall. From L-R: Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Doug Crouse, Hannah O’Hara, Spring Vasey and Garrett Geidel.

Delaware 4-H has long acknowledged excellence with blue ribbons, trophies, project pins and has awarded many scholarships to its 4-H members in recognition of well-done efforts. However, as the largest youth program in the nation, 4-H did not have a signature capstone award, similar to the BSA’s Eagle Scout Award, to honor members who demonstrated extraordinary, sustained, and focused service learning in their community. In 2003, a former 4-H educator in Delaware and Maryland, Dan Tabler,  brought the idea to the Diamond State to adopt in practice after seeing it implemented in Maryland.

Earning the award does not happen overnight or in a single year of a youth’s 4-H career. Along with their Heart, youth plan with their Heads and act with their Hands toward increasing the Health and well-being of their community.  While hardly rookies at community service,  4-H youth nevertheless know that they must pay their dues, work through the minor leagues of community service, and identify a need or purpose before, if you will, reaching the 4-H Diamond Clover ‘show’— the major league in recognition of 4-H effort.

To attain the Diamond Clover Award, a 4-H member must progress through five levels. Upon completion, each stage is marked with a gemstone award designation – amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, sapphire, emerald, and ultimately diamond. “The sixth level requires the 4-H member to propose a major community service project that must be approved by a local Diamond Clover Committee and the State 4-H project leader,” said Tabler.

Giedel, O’Hara, and Vasey each identified a need in the community, produced a plan of action, and documented their journey and learning experiences, including personal challenges, setbacks, and successes. They provided their reflections in detailed, multi-paged reports delivered to the Diamond Clover Award selection committee.  The process is demanding. The award is not routine.

Click to view a slideshow of additional photos.

Kent 4-H’s MVPs and their Diamond Award projects

Garrett Geidel: From puppy love to therapy dog

In 2016,  at the age of 16, Garrett Geidel, of the Peach Blossom 4-H Club began conceiving his idea of raising and working with a therapy dog through the National Capital Therapy Dogs organization.

“I chose to raise a therapy dog for my 4-H Diamond Clover Project because it combines several of my passions,” Geidel said. “I was able to serve my community, foster a healthy lifestyle in myself and others, and work with a dog all at the same time!”

Geidel conducted extensive research on both the need, the impact it could have on his community, the best breeds to select for service and therapy, and all the steps necessary for training and certification.

Geidel settled on Rory, a Golden Retriever puppy located in Pittsburgh.  Because Rory would also be a family pet, the entire Geidel family bore the $2,410 in expenses, including puppy purchase, veterinarian bills, training classes, certifications and registrations associated with the project.

One challenge, Geidel’s age, required that his mother also receive certification and accompany her son on therapy visits until he reached the age of 18. Geidel initially estimated the process would take six months and planned to visit locations twice a month. The reality was double his estimate.

If Geidel had a baseball card, his stats would be impressive. By the time he filed his documentation, he had totaled more than 460 volunteer hours, and to account for impact in monetary terms to the community, assigned a modest rate of $8 per hour for his personal time.

The true value of Geidel’s experience, he reports, can be seen in the reactions of the people he and Rory visit each week, usually paced at one-hour intervals for the benefit of Rory and the clients the duo befriends. Geidel visits nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care centers, rehab centers, hospitals and occasionally direct visits with special needs children. Garrett and Rory also increase awareness on the need of therapy dogs by setting up displays across the community and giving talks at schools and at various 4-H events.  “It has also strengthened my own self-discipline and wellness,” Geidel reflected.

“After completing this project, I know much more about therapy dogs and their benefits, of course, but beyond that, I’ve learned more about myself,” Geidel said.  “I have a clearer idea of where my passions can lead me, whether it be a career in health or public service, another opportunity to educate my peers and fellow citizens on the importance of these things, or even another visit at a local nursing home or hospital!”  Read Garrett Geidel’s 4-H Diamond Clover Award submission here.

Hannah O’Hara – Making math fun with Project Hopscotch

girl standing next to hopscotchThe inspiration for Houston Cardinals 4-H member Hannah O’Hara’s Diamond Clover project arose from, where many great ideas come from— the family dinner table. From her mother, a public school educator, O’Hara sensed many students disliked mathematics. O’Hara wanted to change that attitude and create an environment that would help teachers build interest and enthusiasm for mathematics in young students.  Getting to them early was important, O’Hara realized. She also had to make the learning fun.

“I decided to install Project Hopscotch because I saw a need for children learning math. Many older kids believe that math isn’t fun or that they have never been good at it,” O’Hara wrote in her report.  “I decided to change that by allowing teachers to have a fun learning environment in a safe place.”

As her inception of a hopscotch course sprang to life at two Milford locations— Morris Early Childhood Center and the Milford Boys and Girls Club— O’Hara realized her Project Hopscotch offered another benefit to its participants—increased motor skills and healthy physical activity.

Health had been on O’Hara’s mind. O’Hara’s multi-tasking had her hopping at all levels, challenging her own health.  One of 4-H’s most heralded mottos is “learn by doing” and O’Hara ran a fervid pace on the ‘doing’ treadmill.  In helping others get academically and physically healthier, she let her own health slide. That revelation about her own well-being, O’Hara feels, was a valuable learning experience.

O’Hara had a lot going on. From serving as her senior class’ president—responsible for planning her senior class trip, graduation, and picnic—and time required as a state 4-H Teen Officer in addition to her regular 4-H club responsibilities, O’Hara found herself battling a bout of walking pneumonia and other medical issues. Upon her doctor’s advice, a goal-oriented O’Hara learned to slow down, take strategic pauses, regain her strength and better manage stress. She also reached out to others to help her achieve her goals.

The value of teamwork was key. O’Hara coordinated building materials, donations, and painted and decorated the 40 blocks and beanbags used for the course. She called upon friends and secured volunteer help and donations for the digging and grading of the site, laying the foundation of crush and run, and providing stability for the course to endure through heavy hopping and mathematical calculations. Each of the two courses is 3 feet by 10 feet and the stones sit at 4 inches deep.  O’Hara freely credits her friends and family for making the dinner table idea come to fruition.

“From Project Hopscotch, I have learned that by putting faith in your community, you will be able to accomplish more,” O’Hara said. “Without volunteers, donations, businesses, and facilities this project would have been too large to accomplish on my own. I found that when everyone works together, projects are easier to accomplish and make a larger impact.”

This past April, O’Hara and her team finished the project at both locations. The community was informed through a press release. Each of the facility’s coordinators was provided with instructions on how to use the course.  Read Hannah’s full 4-H Diamond Clover report here.

Spring Vasey: Dr. Daisy says drink more milk for better nutrition

girl with cow and lab coatSpring Vasey feels that America is overfed yet undernourished. A member of Pure Country 4-H Club, Vasey lives on a farm and sought to connect youth to learn what she believed would help correct the nutritional slide by leading a community-wide “milk-drinking movement.”

Vasey created a fun character, “Dr. Daisy” a dairy cow veterinarian who connects with children through interesting conversations about milk and the dairy industry.

Donning a lab coat, name badge, stethoscope, a handcrafted udder, ears, and cow-spotted couture, Vasey’s alter-ego delivered hour-long presentations, engaging her audiences with colorful props, and a set design most veterinarians would envy.  “I felt by dressing like a dairy cow doctor, I could catch the children’s attention,” Vasey said.

And talk about house calls! Dr. Daisy’s schedule lists cow camps, county 4-H day camps, specialty and community 4-H clubs, festivals, and schools. At William Penn, Dr. Daisy presented to special needs children, adjusting her program to meet the challenge of students who could not hear or who had other unique learning situations.

“I had to break down my lesson to make it easily understandable,” Vasey admits. “I talked more slowly and repeated myself often.”

Another challenge and valuable learning experience for Vasey was networking and making contacts who got Dr. Daisy in the door to deliver her message.  Persistence through old-fashioned phone work and follow-up reminders with postcards, email, and word-of-mouth all paid off with increased bookings.

Vasey also took to the Internet, creating a Dr. Daisy Facebook page. “I can reach a large number of people in a small amount of time,” Vasey said.  Vasey effectively uses images and video and is thrilled to see her likes, views and reach climb on social media. “My video about cows salivating has had 1,200 views, reached 2,500 people and the feedback has been quite positive,” Vasey reported in her award application. Vasey also moved to YouTube and began to create educational videos, she reports.

Like any good doctor tending a patient, Dr. Daisy arrives prepared. Vasey set two goals. The first was to team up with teachers before entering the classroom. Her second goal was to make an effort to personally interact with each child, giving each a chance to answer. Each child receives a “Got Milk” bracelet. One fun challenge is reducing all the ‘mooing’ in the hallways after her presentation. Vasey plans to borrow and use an idea overheard from a clever teacher, “Remember, cows are quiet as they walk through the barn!”

Vasey reached 400 kindergarten students in January 2018 alone and by the time of her application had accumulated 150+ hours of virtual veterinarian work, many of those hours dedicated to planning her lessons and developing creative content to reach her young audiences.

“I wanted to educate the public about the importance of drinking milk and to help create a greater understanding of our dairy industry,” Vasey said. There is also the benefit of immediate feedback to gauge her effort’s impact. “After I have visited with the kids, the greatest thing I’ve heard from teachers is that the students tell each other to drink their milk!”  View Spring’s 4-H Delaware Diamond Clover report here.

“What makes each of these projects so rewarding is that our 4-H Diamond Clover Award candidates develop his or her own unique idea, fueled by their interest or 4-H project work,” Crouse said. “The impacts are personal, purposeful and full of passion.”

Diamonds symbolize greatness, strength, endurance, brilliance, fair play and excellence. They are also special to Delaware’s identity. According to legend, Delaware earned one of its nicknames, the “Diamond State” because Thomas Jefferson regarded Delaware as a “jewel” for its strategic location on the East Coast.

Baseball or 4-H didn’t exist in Jefferson’s time, but if they did, we think he would agree, the newest 4-H Diamond Clover Award honorees scored a grand slam for community service and service learning and three more facets why the First State brightly shines.

Article by Michele Walfred
Photos submitted