When Rachel Kucera and Julie Hellendrung met at the fairgrounds in Brown County, they never could have imagined that they'd end up as co-leaders of the Golden Rose Riders 4-H club…or at least Rachel couldn't.
"I'm not a 4-H alum," Rachel says. "But Julie had organized a fancy thing at the fair where youth got to ride someone else's horses, and my girls thought that was the best thing ever, even though we had horses at home."
Before she knew it, Rachel had committed to co-leading a 4-H club for the first time.
"Julie swooped me in, and we've been co-leaders of the Golden Rose Riders 4-H club ever since!" she recalls.
It was these circumstances of their first meeting that sparked the idea of bringing 4-H and horse experiences to youth not yet involved in the program– specifically those with disabilities.
"Each year, 4-H clubs are challenged to pick either a service project or community pride project," Julie says. "We were struggling to come up with an idea that would be impactful and make a difference."
Then, inspiration struck.
"Julie and I both have family members with disabilities who have loved and benefited from relationships with horses," Rachel says. "We brought the idea to our club, and they fully supported it."
Current members of the 4-H club provide education about horses and riding and serve as support alongside the horses while community members experience riding. The event has been a huge success and is now in its fourth year.
According to Janessa Palmer, Extension educator in Brown County, Rachel and Julie's impact does not stop here.
"Rachel has incredible organization and management skills, which pair perfectly with Julie's endless ideas and enthusiasm for all things horse-related. As a team, they have re-started the project bowl teams within our county to keep the older youth involved year-round," Janessa says. "In addition, they organized a successful 'mock fair,' introducing new 4-H'ers and families– many without prior 4-H experience– to the fair atmosphere in a welcoming and encouraging way."
When asked about the impact she's made as a volunteer, Julie says, "Sometimes I don't even think about it as volunteering or teaching or being a role model; I'm just…there."
In a way, she and Rachel see themselves as support– much like the young people walking alongside the horses– to the 4-H'ers in Brown County as they learn to lead others.
Learn more about becoming a 4-H volunteer.
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