ANGELINA CO., Texas — One of the best events you’ll see at the Angelina County Fair is called Reach for the Stars “Celebrating the Possibilities”. It will be a livestock show on Thursday, March 24 at 5 pm that will showcase the talents of special needs youth from across our county. Participants will be paired up with a 4-H or FFA buddy to exhibit livestock and learn that they can succeed in the show arena as well.
Jayden is the 14-year-old son of Jaime and Jason West, and has one sister, Jaylyn. He is a student at Zavalla Junior High where he is in the 8th grade Life Skills class. His mom, Jaime, says, “Jayden is very large for his age and often gets mistaken for being a full grown man.”
When asked what led them to participate in the show, “We were invited last year to watch Timothy Barge (friend of ours) and invited to the event to participate this year by Tara Boulware.” From this prior experience they decided to sign up.
Outside of participating in the County Fair, Jayden says he really loves to cook, go fishing and draw. He also is very interested in animals at the County Fair.
Jayden lost his great grandfather, who was his best friend, in an accident in 2017. His mom said, “It took a lot of counseling for him to overcome the trauma of losing his best friend.” Jaime said she wants Jayden to gain more courage and improved social skills as a result of participating in the show.
The family lives on Lake Sam Rayburn and currently own a house that they rent out on Airbnb. Their dream is to make a permanent business out of renting out Airbnb’s and an RV park for Jayden to be hired as maintenance-man as a way to make a living when he is older.
Karen Stafford is one of the volunteers leading this show. Stafford says, “I had started seeing this type of show in other counties around Texas, and I’ve seen some special needs kids showing at the major stock shows, and I just felt like it was time to see if we could offer something like this in our county and our community.”
“The support and enthusiasm have been overwhelmingly positive,” Stafford continues, “We have had so many people step forward wanting to volunteer in a number of ways, both adults and kids. The response from the 4-H and FFA kids willing to donate their animals and be buddies for the exhibitors is very heartwarming. We have such an amazing community that really wants to see this show be successful.”
Looking ahead, she states, “I hope these exhibitors will see that livestock showing really is achievable for them and maybe they will consider joining a 4-H or FFA group and becoming a part of the Angelina County Fair in the future. Also, animals can have calming and therapeutic effects, and I’ve seen what it can do for kids with different ranges of disabilities. These livestock animals might be what a kid needs, but they just might not know it yet.”
Registration for the Reach for the Stars show is available online at AngelinaCountyFair.com. This is an opportunity for special needs children in grades 3 – 12. The event is free but you must pre-register by March 18th at the website under the “contest tab”.
The public is invited to see the Reach for the Stars show at 5pm on Thursday, March 24 in the main arena of the EXPO in Lufkin.
–Cary Sims, Extension Agent
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Angelina County