Guest Author: Lauren Kugler
I first met Lily Redden in March 2020, days before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Lily and I were on a committee interviewing final candidates vying to be the next local 4-H Agent, a position tragically vacated when the beloved Nadine Henry became terminally ill with cancer.
Lily was the youngest person on that interview committee, and her passion for 4-H was more than evident.
4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States. It’s centered around a sense of belonging, developing skills to be independent thinkers, experiencing challenges and problem-solving to build self-confidence, and practicing generosity. The local Gunnison County 4-H Program is run by the CSU Extension office.
When Lily joined 4-H at eight years young, she was incredibly shy. As her involvement grew, 4-H clubs and projects like Boots-to-Bridles, Livestock Judging, and Market Swine gave Lily the confidence to come out of her shell.
“I was eleven when I attended my first State-wide 4-H conference. My dream to become a state officer started that day,” she said.
She was inspired by those around her to hold officer positions at the Club, County, District and State level. Little Lily, who rarely opened her mouth as a youngster, became comfortable speaking in public and being a leader among her peers.
“Having the ability to communicate my thought-process when tackling an issue or solving a problem and the confidence to speak up for myself and share my thoughts and ideas are skills from 4-H that I use every day,” says Lily. “4-H gives opportunities to anyone who wants to take them.”
For Lily and many others, long-time local 4-H Agent, Nadine Henry, provided steady guidance to grow and learn. Nadine was beloved by many and truly gave her all to the 4-H program and the kids participating.
“Nadine pushed me to try new things and always encouraged me. She was one of my biggest supporters. I’m so happy she was able to see me elected and inducted as District 10 President,” says Lily.
After Nadine passed away, her family chose to honor her legacy with a permanent fund at the Community Foundation that will benefit local 4-H programming in perpetuity. An anonymous donor had started the 4-H Forever Fund for just that purpose in 2002 and graciously agreed to combine the two funds to create the Nadine Henry 4-H Forever Fund.
Among other things, the Nadine Henry 4-H Forever Fund helps with out-of-town trips for participants. Lily remembers, “Because I was on the livestock judging team and participated in camps and conferences across the State, I benefited from the Fund and chose to give back to it when I was old enough.” All 4-H kids who participate in the annual Junior Livestock Sale have the option to give part of their sale proceeds to the Fund to pay it forward for future participants.
Lily was selected to be Cattlemen’s Queen for the 2020 rodeo season. Because of COVID, it was an unusual year, but she was still able to attend and help out at the National Western Stock Show and represent her hometown rodeo at Cattlemen’s Days during a year when many other rodeos were canceled.
Lily spent this summer as an intern at the local CSU Extension office, primarily working with youngsters in 4-H and learning what it might be like to become a 4-H Agent after college. She will return to Canyon, Texas, next month for her sophomore year at West Texas A&M University as an Agricultural Business major. Thanks in large part to 4-H, Lily has blossomed into an impressive young adult, and I have no doubt that she will be successful wherever she chooses to land!
About the Author
Lauren Kugler is the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley. The Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley (CFGV) inspires and connects people so everyone can thrive. The Nadine Henry 4-H Forever Fund is one of dozens of community funds that exist at CFGV to support the Gunnison Valley.