By Annissa Anderson
When Tate Waddel of John Day, Oregon decided to donate proceeds from his 4-H steer to the local hospital, his goal was modest. Waddel, who has cerebral palsy and needs ongoing physical, occupational and speech therapy, wanted to donate an expected $5,000 to $7,000 to improve the pediatric therapy options at Blue Mountain Hospital.
For years, the Waddel family traveled to Bend every two to three weeks for a variety of appointments. The rural hospital did not have sufficient space or equipment to provide its pediatric patients with a variety of treatments. The goal to improve this would make it easier for Tate to progress without so many trips, and for other pediatric patients of Blue Mountain Hospital to benefit as well.
Tate’s entire family pitched in to help raise the steer, and others in the small ranching community helped provide feed and hay. After all, raising an animal for 4-H is a big part of what kids in Grant County do. In addition to the financial goal, the process of raising the animal was another valuable benefit for Tate.
“What we were doing was just letting Tate be like the other kids,” said Simmie Waddel, Tate’s mom. After the sale, the Waddel family bought the meat from Tate’s steer. “Tate’s proud to see that he put food on the table.”
The final donation from Tate to the hospital was $32,893.48. The donation has already resulted in purchases of many kinds of equipment designed for a pediatric therapy gym, including game equipment, mats and therapy bolsters, trapezes and swings, balance beams, and more.
As therapists’ wish lists were fulfilled and equipment arrived, it became apparent that another hurdle ahead would be hospital space. The hospital is in the process of dedicating more space for pediatric therapy and more equipment will be added over time.
The new – and coming – therapy space and equipment will affect Tate, and other local children, for many years to come. “Access to these machines will further his physical and developmental progress,” said Simmie Waddel. “When a kid thinks they’re playing, it’s much easier to keep them engaged.”
The Roundhouse Foundation of Sisters, Oregon heard about Tate’s giving spirit through an article in the Blue Mountain Eagle, Grant County’s local newspaper. Some of Roundhouse’s staff, including executive director and trustee, Erin Borla, are 4-H alumni and believe in the value of their programming, especially in rural communities.
“4-H inspires young people to have community spirit. It’s more than a personal project with a hog or a steer or a horse,” said Borla, “It’s a connection to community, building something larger than yourself. Tate and his family are a living example of the spirit of 4-H.”
The Roundhouse Foundation then reached out to Christal Culley, education program assistant for OSU Extension Service and Grant County. Culley, who runs the 4-H program with more than 200 local youth, as well as in-school programming, shared her goal to remove barriers to 4-H enrollment in Grant County.
“I just don’t want anyone hesitating to join the program because of the enrollment fee,” said Culley, citing the many skills that 4-H can share with youth. Roundhouse agreed to provide funds to cover Grant County enrollment fees (a state fee of $25 is still required) for the current year, and Culley hopes this inspires another funder next year.
Another project, spearheaded by Culley, is the Tree of Giving Project that provides Christmas gifts to 4-H youth in Grant County. Donations come in from many area businesses and organizations, making sure that no child in the program goes without a gift. Roundhouse Foundation, as a pledge to keep Tate’s philanthropic spirit going, provided twenty-six Columbia Sportswear winter jackets to teens involved in 4-H in Grant County.
“When young people get engaged in philanthropy, that spirit is carried throughout the community,” said Borla. Tate’s story has inspired change locally, garnered new partners like Roundhouse Foundation, and is continuing to inspire others that change can happen.
“It goes to show, if you invest your efforts into something, you can make a difference,” said Borla.
About the Author: Annissa Anderson has been a Central Oregon resident for more than 25 years. She spent her childhood living and traveling abroad. Her freelance writing has covered topics ranging from food and nutrition to travel, lifestyle, the arts, and personality profiles. She is now excited to write about the great work Roundhouse Foundation partners are doing in communities around the state of Oregon.
Photos courtesy the Waddel family and Grant County 4-H.