Todd Tarifa, LaFleur, Kara D. | 11/9/2006 11:14:58 PM
A first-time festival involving more than 2,000 visitors and about 100 volunteers usually takes an experienced committee of adults to plan and manage. The success of the recent "Up With Kids" event, however, was due to a group of Baton Rouge teenagers.
"They came to us and asked if our junior leaders could train the volunteers for this event," said Todd Tarifa, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent for East Baton Rouge Parish.
By "they" he meant the organizations that sponsored "Up With Kids," which was a day of fun activities on Oct. 28 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center for special needs kids from the area and their families.
"This festival was entirely youth-driven. The adult volunteers were only there for legalities," Tarifa said.
The 4-H members were put in charge of recruiting volunteers for the festival and training the volunteers.
The chief sponsors for the event were Families Helping Families and the Child Assessment Center, both headquartered in Baton Rouge. Officials in these organizations had heard about the effective job the Baton Rouge 4-H’ers were doing with their various service-learning activities. For the past four years, for example, the junior leaders have been volunteering at Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) Children’s Hospital, Tarifa said.
"There could not have been a more successful day," said Dr. Roberta Vicari, medical director at the OLOL Children’s Hospital of the Oct. 28 event. "I am amazed that we had such a turnout. Perhaps what stirred my emotions the most was the diversity of the attendees. There were children and families from all social walks of life, from every economic level and from every stage of medical complexity.
"And how about those 4-H volunteers? If anyone does not have faith in the youth of today, then they have never met these kids," she said.
More than 2,000 tickets were given to special needs children and their families to attend the event. Hospitals and schools recommended children for the festival. Also tickets were available at the festival the day of the event.
Activities included pony rides, train rides and later in the evening, when the weather was better, the children were able to go on hot air balloon rides. The children enjoyed games of bean bag toss, pick-up-ducks and fishing for prizes.
"The kids seemed to enjoy it immensely so it was very exciting," said Lindsey Tassin, the 4-H junior leader in charge. "It turned out better than I expected. I have so many ideas for next year."
Service projects are a major part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program, said Dr. Paul Coreil, vice chancellor for extension. Each 4-H club in Louisiana is expected to develop a service-learning project.
"This is an example of the impact of the 4-H program," Coreil said. "These young people learn leadership skills in a real-world situation, and the community benefits from their hard work and talents."
"Most other 4-H service projects for this year are for hurricane relief," said Katy Dyson, 4-H member and volunteer. "We wanted to do something else and still make a difference."