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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Faces of Ohio 4-H

Michael and his wife.

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 Michael winning showmanship for Dairy Market Feeder, July 1995dad, 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. Canter's CaveI 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.” 

Michael assisting an elderly man in Dominican Republic with shoulder pain while on a medical mission trip in March 201.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.” 

Left to right: Raymond Friend, Jason Ross, Larkin Friend, Christopher Smalley, Josh Ross, and Michael Samples at Black Rock Falls, Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp for a work-day, November 2019Samples 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.” 


A group of people painting the pool at Canter's Cave.


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