The story I’m sharing this week is one that reminds me why story sharing is so important. We often focus too much on facts, and not the amazing experiences and moments that make those facts important. Today, I’m sharing the story of Justin Parish and the memorial bursary created in his name. Yes deadlines, application processes, and recipient names are important, but knowing why the bursary was set up is sometimes the more difficult and always the more important part of the puzzle.
In 2011 Justin’s parents, Connie and Robin, came to the 4-H Ontario staff asking for help to set up the Justin Parish Memorial Bursary. Justin was a Durham-West 4-H Dairy Club Member and for him, Learn To Do By Doing wasn’t just something that happened at a Club meeting, it was a way of life. Justin was illiterate and the hands-on learning approach of 4-H gave him a venue to showcase and build upon his unique skill-set. Justin was adopted from a desperate situation and his parents were truly unsure of what his future would hold, but farm life enabled Justin to excel. The family farm in Woodville, Ontario, gave Justin a great focus. He learned his tasks and did them exceptionally well. Yes, he couldn’t read or write, but he was very capable. Since a young age he showed a strong interest in and passion for cows. Justin was a true animal lover. Living on a farm was the perfect situation for him.
His strong animal sense gave way to a natural fit with 4-H. He tried leading calves for the first time when he was 11 or so, and was an active 4-H Member from 2003 – 2007 in the Durham West 4-H Dairy Club. His dedicated Leaders took time to teach him, but much of his learning happened simply by watching others in the Club. “As parents running a dairy farm you are often too busy to explain everything in detail, but through 4-H and what he learned, he really excelled,” Robin explains.
4-H gave Justin the outlet to do what he loved, experience new things, learn, and interact with others. He didn’t drive, and was unable to do a lot of things, so 4-H gave him a great opportunity to get off the farm and interact with others. 4-H also enabled Justin to focus on something he loved: clipping. Justin spent a lot of time clipping cattle on the farm, and he also clipped other 4-H’rs calves at shows. “He was very giving. He would much rather give than receive,” Robin notes.
Justin aspired to go to the Royal and compete in the Scotiabank Hays Classic (now the TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic). Justin did visit the Royal with his family to watch but he didn’t get there by accomplishment. The competition for the Scotiabank Hays Classic was tough and Justin’s just wasn’t able to go and compete on his own. When Justin passed away suddenly in April 2010, the family wanted to do something important in his honour and 4-H came to mind. His dream of competing at the Royal was one they wanted to support in other 4-H Members.
“It seemed natural to try and extend his love for what he did, to give the opportunity to someone else,” explains Robin. The Justin Parish Memorial Bursary of $500 is available annually to enable one 4-H Ontario dairy Club Member to attend the RAWF for the very first time. “We wanted to give a dedicated 4-H’r the chance to attend the Royal, one that wouldn’t otherwise get to go. That’s why it is so important the bursary recipient is chosen after the Royal teams have been selected,” explains Robin. Recipients of the bursary are chosen on their passion and dedication.
The bursary enables a deserving 4-H Member to experience the indescribable moment of walking into the Royal for the very first time. “If the experience of attending the Royal even adds the slightest impact on the recipients to go on with through their lives it will all be worth it. That kind of experience can have an impact to give youth an initiative that will stay with them for the rest of their life,” says Robin.
I’ve come to the realization that although I wanted to, I won’t ever know all of Justin’s 4-H story. I will only know parts and pieces, but those parts and pieces make the bursary more important to me. I know the deadlines, application process and recipient names, but I also know why the bursary has such an impact. I know the bursary is celebrating Justin and the importance of not only reaching for your own dreams, but also encouraging others to reach for theirs.
The nomination deadline for this year’s bursary is September 15. Click here to read more on eligibility and submission.