4-Hers Brighten Hospital Stay For Area Youngsters

Todd Tarifa, LaFleur, Kara D., Benedict, Linda F.  |  12/2/2006 4:08:40 AM

Three-year-old Jackson shows off the butterfly keychain he made with 4-H members Jessica Windham and Myles Morris. 4-Hers from East Baton Rouge Parish volunteer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center twice a month.

News Release Distributed 12/01/06

Sitting in a hospital all day long is not much fun for the typical child, especially Jackson, a 3-year-old with big brown eyes and Batman pajamas. When 4-H’ers Jessica Windham and Myles Morris asked if he wanted to make a keychain, he was glad to make a "butterfly one for my mom."

Just a few minutes of craft-making, talking about the Justice League and Jackson’s upcoming 4th birthday helped him forget about being confined in the hospital.

Sunday afternoons for most teenagers usually consist of a trip to the mall, TV watching or homework. A group of 4-H members in Baton Rouge, however, choose to use their time in a more fulfilling way. They volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

The junior leaders of the East Baton Rouge 4-H club are a group of high school students who participate in various service projects. A major project they have been working on for two years is volunteering at Our Lady of the Lake’s Children’s Hospital. Every second and fourth Sunday of each month, 16 students and two adult leaders go to the Children’s Hospital to read, play games and make crafts with the children.

When most people think of a 4-H club, they think of cookery contests, livestock shows and sewing workshops. The East Baton Rouge Parish 4-H club shows, however, that 4-H is much more than those traditional activities, said Todd Tarifa, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent for East Baton Rouge Parish.

"4-H is no longer just for the kids who show livestock and participate in tractor driving contests," Tarifa said. "4-H offers something for everyone in every community across the United States. 4-H members are taught leadership skills, life skills and good citizenship."

Nationwide, 55 percent of 4-H members live in cities, large towns and their suburbs. In Louisiana, 33 percent of 4-H’ers are in larger cities, towns and suburbs, while 37 percent live in smaller towns or other nonfarm settings. Just 30 percent live on farms or in rural areas.

Fran Castille, who has been an adult volunteer for 4-H for more than 30 years and helps in East Baton Rouge Parish, said, "East Baton Rouge Parish is a mixture of urban and rural kids, and they work well together."

Some schools in Baton Rouge did not have 4-H clubs until recently. This is the first year for St. Joseph’s Academy and Catholic High School to have official 4-H clubs, Tarifa said.

"A lot of girls are getting active in junior leadership and our service learning projects," said Lindsey Tassin, a junior leader from St. Joseph’s Academy and the 4-H’er in charge of organizing the visits to the Lake hospital.

Each parish 4-H club in the state is obligated to develop a service-learning project to live up to its motto, "to make the best better."

"This service project is something the junior leaders take pleasure in doing," Tarifa said.

Duties of the East Baton Rouge Parish group at the Children’s Hospital consist of monitoring and cleaning the playroom, making patient rounds and completing various tasks as needed by the staff.

Myles Morris, a junior leader from Catholic High School, said he once played foosball with a child in the hospital and "made his day."

The junior leaders make crafts before visiting the hospital to offer to children who are not able to make them. Morris also said many of the kids like to participate in making crafts, especially the younger ones.

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Contact: Todd Tarifa at (225) 389-3056, or tatarifa@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Kara LaFleur, student intern of Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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