Herald Tribune

Special-Needs 4-H Member Blazes Trail for Others in Dairy Show Ring

Earlier this month, Cody Walker became the first special-needs 4-H member to show a dairy cow.

Showing cows was a big step up for 14-year-old Cody, a special-needs 4-H member who previously would show plants at the Sarasota County Agricultural Fair. His first time showing a dairy cow came earlier this month, the Herald Tribune reported, and wouldn't have been possible without his friend, 15-year-old Tyler Benes and a cow named "Moo-Moo."

The boys, and Moo-Moo, a Holstein calf, received first in show and second in class at the 82nd annual Sarasota County Agricultural Fair. Tyler reassured Cody as they walked on the uneven sand around the ring with Moo-Moo, who weighs about 400 pounds. Cody, who was infected with spinal meningitis as a young child, wasn't expected to be able to walk, smile, or even move; doctors anticipated he would be in a permanent vegetative state. He proved them wrong.

It was Cody's mother, Angela, who first brought up the idea about Cody showing livestock. After seeing a special on Sassy Cows, a program in Tampa for special-needs students to show cows, she went to Tammy Boyce, a Livestock Club of Sarasota County 4-H leader, and a Sarasota Moo Crew dairy leader, to see if it would be possible to do something similar. That's when Boyce brought in Tyler, whose cow was unable to compete. Cody and Tyler quickly became a team.

Erin, Tyler's mom, is proud of her son's friendship with his cow and their turn in the arena.

And of course the day was special for Angela, who will cherish every moment from the fair; though her son may never bring home a report card with perfect grades, and isn't expected to attend college, he has earned an accolade that can never be taken away.

Angela said:

"We get to have that he's the first (special-needs student) in Sarasota County to show dairy with a large animal." 

Special-needs children are not excluded from 4-H programs or the National FFA Organization, and Angela hopes that Cody's experience will inspire others families with special-needs children to explore these programs.

What do you think of Cody's achievement? Share your thoughts below. 

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