2023 Henry County Shine in the Show Ring

Camdyn Keith had a decision to make.

The 12-year-old from Henry County plays football, and mid-August is about the time that football gets serious as the school year draws near. The junior high student had a scrimmage scheduled for Aug. 15.

But, Camdyn and his brothers, 14-year-old Caydyn and 10-year-old Brandyn, had other responsibilities scheduled for that day. They were to serve as mentors for returning Shine in the Show Ring participants Joey, Caty and Lydia Kuehner, who were to show the Keith’s goats at the Henry County Fair that evening. All the kids have been in 4-H together for years.

Shine in the Show Ring, in its second year at the county fair, was an opportunity for children and adults alike with special needs to team up with 4-H mentors to show the species of their choice at the fair during a special live show with professional judges.

“This is an opportunity for our young people to give back to the community and serve others in need,” said Roy Norman, senior organization director and policy specialist for Ohio Farm Bureau, serving members in Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties. This year there were 30 people signed up to be participants at the event and 42 animals shown.

Joey Kuehner
Joey Kuehner meets Rooster, his calf he will show with mentor Brook Tietje.

The Kuehner children pulled double duty this year. In addition to showing the goats, Lydia showed a calf with mentor Hanna Tietje, Joey showed a calf named Rooster with Hanna’s cousin Brook Tietje and Caty showed a lamb with mentor Chelsea Sattler.

“I volunteered to work this event last year and loved every minute of it,” Sattler said. “Working with Caty was a blast. She was so positive and wanted to try new things all the time. I love being able to give her and many others this experience of a lifetime.”

Renita Kuehner, mother of Joey, Caty and Lydia and an assistant with Henry County Special Olympics, said Shine in the Show Ring was many attendees’ “favorite part of the fair” last year. She gives Farm Bureau credit for not only running a smooth event in 2022 but making it attractive for people to want to come back and make it grow.

“We absolutely loved every single moment last year,” she said. “They did an amazing job with the community, with matching up pairs. They really went above and beyond. The event was spectacular.”

The enthusiasm was contagious, said mentor Brook Tietje.

“I really wanted to be a part of it and be involved,” she said as she led Joey and Rooster out for a meet and greet at her family’s farm in Deshler, Ohio, in early August. She then instructed Joey on how to present the animal to the judges.

Joey, for his part, said the event was fun last year and he wanted to do it again.

“This event provides many different learning experiences for all involved. I don’t think the participants realize it, but their mentor is learning from them as well. We have seen amazing growth in the mentors’ understanding and acceptance of those who have different abilities,” said Henry County Farm Bureau member Stacy Elchinger, who coordinates the event with her sister-in-law, Bailey Elchinger.

“Friendships have started to form between the pairs that will last well past their time in the show ring. They are also learning the importance of making time in their busy schedules to give back, which community members have fully embraced with their support of the event. They have really stepped up to make sure both the participants and mentors have an amazing experience and we can’t thank them enough.”

This was the first year the Tietje family was part of Shine in the Show Ring after watching the event last year.

“It is just a really cool experience for the kids to have the opportunity to learn how to mentor and teach and for everyone to have an opportunity to show,” said mom Dana Tietje.

The look on the kids’ faces as they literally “shine in the show ring” makes the event worth it, according to dad Joe Kuehner.

“It’s a great experience for them to be able to experience farm life and the animals, the things they’ve never done before,” he said. “It builds a lot of confidence to see them doing something and doing something well.”

Joe, who spends time volunteering for the Special Olympics with Renita, gets a little teary-eyed when talking about some of the expressions he sees on the faces of the kids.

“When you see some of these kids who are not very verbal or nonverbal smiling and enjoying themselves, and you see that confidence, I don’t have words to describe what that feels like,” he said.

Renita added that the spirit of inclusion is alive and well in Henry County.

Caty Kuehner
Mentor Chelsea Sattler accompanies Caty Kuehner in the show ring.

“If people don’t see it, then they need to visit the Shine in the Show Ring event,” she said.
Lisa Keith, the brothers’ mom, said being a mentor is good for the mentors as well, as they learn about teaching others to care for the animals as well as responsibility and patience.

“It does the kids good,” she said. “It teaches them that not everybody has the opportunity to show like they have.”

And that football scrimmage? Camdyn’s football coach asked what Camdyn wanted to do. He said he wanted to do his part at the fair, and his coach was fine with that.

“I like helping people who might not be able to show,” said Camdyn with a grin. “It’s fun and I get to meet new people.”

Feature photo: The Keith brothers mentored the Kuehner family for the Shine in the Show Ring event at the Henry County Fair in August 2023. Pictured (l to r): Caydyn Keith, Joey Kuehner, Brandyn Keith, Lydia Kuehner, Caty Kuehner and Camdyn Keith.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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