Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Kenai resident Mercedes Tapley, 11, greets a donkey named Dixie before getting to work on a service project on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the home of Jacque White off of Kalifornski-Beach Road in Kenai, Alaska. Tapley helped clean White's barn with members of the North Wind Riders, a local 4-H group.

Cleaning up to comfort kids

Area barns and stables are in for a serious cleaning if the members of the local 4-H club North Wind Riders have anything to say about it.

The group is raising money for a service project by cleaning out the barns of livestock owners.

Geri Litzen, leader of the North Wind Riders and owner of several of horses, said she tries to keep the group of one-dozen kids involved in community service as much as possible. She found out about Beads of Courage, an organization that provides colorful beads representing treatment milestones for children with serious illnesses, while on a visit to the Anchorage Museum with her daughter, and decided it would be a good project for the members to undertake.

Each bead is unique and a symbol of an accomplishment, such as completing chemotherapy, Litzen said.

Especially in hospitals and more populated areas, the beads help children with serious illnesses empathize with others who are going through the same thing, she said.

“It’s just so tangible and connects kids and helps them understand,” Litzen said.

To raise money to purchase the beads, members of the North Wind Riders will work in local barns for $10 per hour. Litzen said she contacts the livestock owners beforehand. The beads cost $10 each.

A few of the 4-H participants kicked the project off on Wednesday at the home of Jacque White, who takes care of a donkey and a mule off of Kalifornsky Beach Road in the Kenai area.

The kids cleaned out the White’s living area, filled water and networked about upcoming 4-H activities. The donkey, Dixie, and the mule, Dexter, looked on.

“This is awesome,” White said of the assistance. “I love helping, and I love educating people about the animals, and not everybody’s seen a mule and a donkey.”

Litzen said she hopes to take a fieldtrip with her group to Anchorage, where she said the beads can be seen at the Anchorage Museum.

“We would like to go to a few more barns, and probably get to where we can buy, you know, 10 or 20 beads,” Litzen said. “And we’ll be working longer hours as it gets toward spring.”

Monday was only the first work day for the Beads of Courage project, but Litzen said she has no set goal for the number of barns the kids will clean. She said she would prefer the club to adopt the fundraising project from this point on.

“I would like to see this be an ongoing thing because I don’t think there’s a lot of awareness about Beads of Courage,” she said. “And if I just set a goal and we reach it then I don’t feel like we’re going to do (it) from the roots up, you know, to see the fruit of what we’re doing.”

While taking turns cleaning the enclosed livestock living area, members of North Wind Riders said they enjoy the experience they get from volunteering with the added bonus of learning to work with horses.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

 

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski residents and sisters Cierra Mitchell, left, and LaRaey Mitchell, right, scoop manure out of a barn as part of a service project on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the home of Jacque White off of Kalifornski-Beach Road in Kenai, Alaska. The girls and other members of the 4-H group the North Wind Riders are raising money for a project called Beads of Courage by cleaning area barns and stables.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Kenai resident Mercedes Tapley, 11, greets a donkey named Dixie before getting to work on a service project on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the home of Jacque White off of Kalifornski-Beach Road in Kenai, Alaska. Tapley helped clean White’s barn with members of the North Wind Riders, a local 4-H group.

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