Each month we highlight an Ohio 4-H alumnus. Our alumni have amazing stories to share, from their personal experiences in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month we feature business partners Bill Ayars, a Champaign County 4-H alumnus, and Tony Xenikis, a Madison County 4-H supporter.
Bill Ayars grew up as a 4-H member in Champaign County. “I exhibited market steers for 10 years at the local, state, and national levels. I went to 4-H camp as a camper and then became a counselor. Now, I live in Mechanicsburg, and my children now show at the same fair I did.”
Tony Xenikis was introduced to 4-H by his children. “I was never involved in 4-H while growing up in Campbell, a suburb of Youngstown. I became involved in 4-H when we moved to Madison County and my children started showing their projects. I later got involved with the Madison County Agricultural Society and was instrumental in improving the fairground facilities.”
Tony and Bill met at The Ohio State University through a work-study program as undergraduate students and were accepted into vet school at Ohio State the same year. Now they own the Westside Animal Clinic in Columbus.
Both Tony and Bill have great 4-H memories to share. Tony said, “My favorite memories are of my kids doing well, showing their sheep, chickens, and cows. Once, when our sons were competing in open class, the youngest won beef showman and the oldest was reserve champion. The next day, in the junior show, the oldest son won the champion market steer and beef showman, and ultimately became the showman of showman for Madison County.” Bill added that spending time with friends at both the fair and 4-H camp was the most meaningful.
4-H impacted both men in a positive manner. “4-H taught me responsibility, to be humble in success and graceful in defeat,” said Bill. Tony added, “4-H taught our kids that defeat is not the end game. It is about what you learned, the effort you've put into your projects, and how to improve for the next year.”
It was important to both to give back to the program by being involved in the county fair and livestock shows. Tony shared, “I spent eight years on the Madison County Fair Board and watched it evolve into the greatest fair in the state of Ohio! Every year my family makes sure we are part of the junior fair sales to support youth exhibitors.” The Ayars family also supports junior fair sales at county fairs, and Bill’s wife, Melinda, has been a 4-H advisor for the past 12 years.
Bill and Tony shared their advice for today’s 4-H members. “Embrace the 4-H motto of ‘learning by doing,’ ” Bill said. Tony added, “Work hard, ask questions, take advice, and always be honest.”