Each month we highlight an Ohio 4-H alum. They have amazing stories to share, from their personal experience in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month we feature Michael Samples, massage therapist and registered nurse in Columbus, and Jackson County 4-H alumnus.
Michael Samples came from a very 4-H-involved family. “My grandparents, John and Opal Payne, were dairy farmers in Gallia County and, along with their neighbors, Hayes and Este Deel, started Raccoon Valley 4-H club. They raised my mom, her twin sister, and younger brother to be involved in 4-H, participated in county fairs and attended Canter’s Cave 4-H camp, just like their father did. My dad, Dave, was the Lawrence County 4-H agent for a number of years, before we moved to Jackson county when he became the Agriculture Agent. Each of my cousins and siblings, and now most of their kids, are involved in 4-H in their counties and states, but Canter’s Cave draws everyone back to southeast Ohio for camp. 4-H is a family affair for us.”
It wasn’t until he was eight that he got his start in Jackson County 4-H and began making memories of his own. “My favorite memories of growing up are centered around 4-H camp and the county fairs. I started with general projects like woodworking, vegetable gardening, fishing, and photography. I was elected as the health and safety officer of my club and really enjoyed sharing what I was learning with my club members. Around the age of ten, our parents allowed us to raise and show livestock. I showed market hogs and dairy market feeders throughout my 4-H career. I went to Canter’s Cave 4-H camp every year and became a counselor when I turned 15. When I was 17, I was hired on summer staff and worked there for four consecutive summers. It was the best job I ever had! My older sister, Alison, and twin brother, John, were also on summer staff for a time. I was a lifeguard, archery instructor, rappelling instructor, high ropes instructor, and engaged the campers in team-building exercises. It was a lot of work – at least 16-18 hours each day with a little down-time for a short nap after lunch.”
Samples explained that 4-H not only helped him growing up, but also led him to becoming a registered nurse and massage therapist. “I often reflect on my first 4-H club leadership position as the health and safety officer. Though I was very young at the time, I developed a strong desire to help others with my first-aid knowledge and skills. I owe much of who I am to my experiences in 4-H; I gained confidence, empathy, leadership skills, service, hard work, humility, and social engagement, just to name a few. As part of the camp summer staff, I played a major role in changing kids’ lives through inclusive actions, which helped them realize they matter, they are important and unique, and have skills that can benefit others.”
Samples continues to be involved in the organization that has been a part of his life for so long. “I still volunteer at Canter’s Cave, and camp alumni and staff meet a few times a year to clean the trails, repair and update structures, or give attention to anything that needs it. I hope it is evident that I have a strong passion for 4-H and my desire for people to be positively influenced by this organization.”
Michael continues to help volunteer at Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp as a 4-H alumnus. Check future issues for additional ways you can help volunteer at 4-H camps. Another way you can show your support is by participating in the #4HCampNeedsYouNow Buckeye Funder campaign that ends this Thursday. More details can be found at https://give.osu.edu/4hcamps.