Warm and fuzzy feeling

Caleb Hall, a junior at Ovid-Elsie High School, was named the 2019 Animal Science Sportsperson of the year for 4-H.

OVID — From among thousands of 4-H participants in Michigan, Caleb Hall recently was selected as the 2019 4-H Animal Science Sportsperson of the Year.

Hall, 17, has been participating in 4-H for more than 10 years and mostly shows goats and rabbits.

During the 2019 Shiawassee County Fair, Caleb received the John and Joan Spingler Sportsmanship Award.

After winning at the county level, Hall competed at the statewide level and won.

He said it was a surprise and honor to receive the award.

“This is a competitive situation, raising these animals from babies to the time you show them is tough. Having sportsmanship is showing respect for the work other people put in,” Hall said.

Hall, the son of Dan and Donna Hall, has two sisters, Callie 11, and Calsea 7. They both also are involved with 4-H. The Halls and their children love 4-H so much, they started their own group, “Cowabunga Critters,” in about 2014.

“It’s a family affair. We know where the kids are at and what they’re doing at all times,” Donna Hall said.

“That group focuses on the development of our community. We strive to focus on the development of others and their morals really,” Caleb Hall said.

That focus is what caught the attention of 4-H leaders in the area.

Over the past year, Hall took a young girl with autism under his wing and mentored her on how to show animals and helped build her confidence.

“We really pushed her to get herself out there, she was really shy and kept to herself. Over time she opened up to me and my family and then opened up to other people. She began to build confidence when she was showing and that’s what our group is all about,” Hall said. “We want to push people past their comfort zone so they will be better people and make the people around them better as well.”

He said Cowabunga Critters focuses on showing rabbits because their size makes them easy to work with.

“It’s not a big animal, so they’re not too intimidating, but they’re not too small to where you’re wanting something bigger, it’s just right. It really helped the girl I was mentoring to focus on the smaller animal,” Hall said.

He said when he initially met the girl she was taking part in the horse barn, which Hall said wasn’t a good fit.

“(We) bonded really quickly. Her dad approached me about getting her into a different animal. We started working with her and we were like best buddies, what one didn’t think of the other did,” Hall said.

His parents say they’re not surprised.

Donna Hall said, “He goes above and beyond what he does for 4-H. It’s more how he helps everyone and does what’s needed without asking questions. He took a young girl with autism under his wing and taught her everything she needed to know about showing rabbits. That’s the kind of kid Caleb is, he is always trying to help others.”

Dan Hall added, “He never ceases to amaze me. Everything he does he succeeds, I’m so proud of him.”

The Halls said it was important they get their three kids involved with 4-H.

“It teaches them responsibility, leadership. When Caleb was younger he really wanted to participate in 4-H so we got him involved. That was at the age of 5 and now he’s 17 and he’s been with it ever since. He takes great pride in his rabbits and goats,” Donna Hall explained.

Caleb was actually nominated by nine people for the award — something 4-H organizers say is impressive in itself.

“As a 4-H alumna, I think about the 4-H motto: to make the best better. Those are words that encapsulate Caleb,” Dawn Reha, supervisor of the goat barn for the Shiwasseee County Fair, said in her nominating letter.

Nikki Hersch, the 4-H program coordinator for Shiawassee County, said she worked with Caleb on a project at the fair and Hall was especially good with mentoring the younger kids, some of whom were showing for the first time.

“I saw him really show what it means to be a 4-H’er, showing sportsmanship and being encouraging. We have over 700 kids in our program so it’s hard for me to get to know everyone on a personal basis, but Caleb was one that stuck out,” Hersh said.

Hall grew up in the area, living in Owosso and Ovid at different times.

“Since it’s a small community, you know everyone and make connections that last,” Hall said.

Currently in his junior year at Ovid-Elsie, Hall said he wants to be a veterinarian and focus on farm animals.

He hasn’t decided on where he wants to attend school for his undergraduate studies, but has his eyes on Michigan State University for veterinary school.

“I would ideally like to be working with large farm animals and maybe touch on small animals. It was really 4-H that got me interested in it,” Hall said.

Hall said he plans to continue with 4-H and encourages everyone to get involved.

“It’s like a big giant family. Once you know one person it’s kind of a chain reaction, you know everyone,” he said. “I think a common misconception is you have to live out in the country to be in 4-H, but that’s not true. You can live right in New York City and be involved in 4-H you can still have the great aspects of it. 4-H isn’t just about owning animals it’s about bringing your community together.”

For information on 4-H, call Hersch at (919) 743-2251 or email her at herschni@msu.edu.

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