Making Ontario Proud

Sudbury’s Wayne Macdonald is 4-H Canada’s National Volunteer of the Year

By Ryan Métivier

Wayne Macdonald has spent years engaged in his  community. A soccer coach for over 15 years, 25-year member of the Knights of Columbus, associate member of the Legion of Canada and executive board member of the Westmount Playground Association – Wayne has enriched the lives of many youth and adults while volunteering.

However, he had never been a part of 4-H. A Cubs and Scouts member as a youth, it wasn’t until he married his wife Paulette in 1986 who was a 4-H alumna in Renfrew County, that he was first exposed to the program. In 1988 he helped her start a 4-H club in Arnprior and has never looked back.

Nearly 30 years later Wayne and Paulette have led clubs in almost every category of project available. That commitment to developing youth in 4-H was recently acknowledged at the 4-H Canada Annual General Meeting in June where Wayne was named National Volunteer Leader of the Year.

“Our philosophy is to offer projects each year that touch on certain key areas of 4-H in order to provide a well-rounded experience for the members,” he says.

Wayne is also the Vice-President of the Sudbury District 4-H Association, while also volunteering as the Awards Coordinator, Webmaster, Screening Committee member, for several years as the Region 1 President and throughout all levels of Go For The Gold.

Wayne feels the biggest takeaway youth get from 4-H is confidence and personal development.

“Since the hands-on lessons and experiential learning is so positive, the members can go out in life and use these skills immediately, no matter their age,” he says. “This strengthening of character is vital; after all, we are growing society’s future leaders.”

Wayne truly believes in the 4-H motto, ‘Learn To Do By Doing’ and enjoys sharing his life experiences with the youth in 4-H. By embodying the 4-H motto and living the 4-H values, he believes both he and Paulette help members to become more confident and better equipped to excel in their lives, while also being better and more compassionate citizens.

“The beauty of our ‘4-H relationship’ is that there is Wayne, there is me and there is ‘us’,” says Paulette. “This is why I have enjoyed volunteering over the years and still feel so passionate about my involvement. We give each other space to be ourselves yet we have a consistency and a style that is ‘us’! We learn, we grow, we enjoy and we receive so much from the members.”

Paulette believes Wayne’s authenticity and joyful demeanor allows members to feel safe, accepted and free to be themselves and grow.

These sentiments were on full display in Wayne’s nomination for the National Volunteer Leader of the Year Award. In her letter of nomination, 17-year-old Youth Leader Meaghan Ethier said Wayne makes the community a better place simply by being a part of it.

“He has an infectious positive attitude that encourages us as youth to be better people,” she says.

She continues to say Wayne is an amazing role model in Sudbury and has had a huge impact on all members of their club.

“Wayne is a lot more than my 4-H leader. He is an example of the kind of person that I want to become.”

To receive the award was quite the honour for Wayne and something he was shocked to find out, as he was unaware of the nomination.

“Being honoured for what you do in life is amazing,” he says. “Being honoured for volunteering your time and skills is amazing. Being honoured by the youth you share the 4-H program with is a gift of a lifetime.”

Paulette Macdonald awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Paulette Macdonald was first introduced to 4-H in 1976 while living in Renfrew County. One of only six local girls who were part of the Greenwood Homemaking Club, she enjoyed the experience of making new friends and learning new skills.

Little did she know that an activity which her mother signed her up for as a kid, would become such a large part of her life, and eventually lead to her winning a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 – for her extensive work as a leader and volunteer in 4-H.

The medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The commemorative award serves as a way to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians, with a total of 60,000 Canadians being recognized in the inaugural year.

Medal recipient and 4-H volunteer Paulette Macdonald was involved in 4-H until she was 18 and went away to school. After later getting married, she and her husband Wayne became involved as leaders in the late 80’s before taking a break to have their son. By 2000 Macdonald was once again getting the itch to become involved in 4-H, and to see her son have the 4-H experience, despite living in a bigger city—Sudbury.

“I wanted my son to experience 4-H and we didn’t live in the country anymore,” she said. “I felt like he would never experience the farm and agriculture unless I created a 4-H club.”

So Macdonald created one of the first urban 4-H clubs and got involved at the board level for both the district and region; an experience she says gave her the opportunity to meet a variety of people and talk to adults with similar interests.

It was her work on a miniature horse farm with her husband that gained them both a nomination for the medal. The farm was set up to provide a therapeutic riding program for challenged adults. However, with so many horses, the owners were strained for time to train all of the horses to become socialized with adults. The owners found a solution in Paulette’s club.

With 18 kids in her 4-H project, Paulette was able to incorporate a horse project where members would come to the farm once a week to get the horses used to being touched, groomed and walked by people. Members also learned all the basics about horses, from body parts and breeds, to housing, nutrition, and how to put a halter on and tie a horse to a fence. At the end of the program members would show the horses at the Warren Fair.

“What I get out of the project is the love of being back on a farm every week and being near horses,” said Macdonald. “I feel like I’m at home again and I love being around members and helping them.”

Macdonald has spent many years involved with 4-H Ontario as a resource, a leader, and a volunteer. Her tireless efforts have earned her much recognition.

Obviously Macdonald was thrilled to receive this distinctive honour, but she says the true reward was just knowing that someone (one of the fathers at the club) took the time to nominate her and her husband.

“He gave me the gift that day just by saying he had nominated us. I felt like I received my gift that day.”