By Matt Reese
Sarah Young, though she was only 10, knew she loved showing sheep in 4-H at the Highland County Fair. She also knew that, after the failure of levies for Extension funding in Highland County, the $50,000 in annual local funding would have to be raised or she would no longer have the opportunity to participate in 4-H with her lamb projects.
So, in 2010, she decided to donate the proceeds of the sale of her market lamb to support Highland County Extension. Though she was hoping for the entire $50,000, the lamb sold for almost $13,000, which was a great start that encouraged more contributions from others.
“When it was all said and done, she ended up raising, directly and indirectly, about $30,000 from other people stepping forward contributing money after she was on the news,” said Shelli Young, Sarah’s mother. “Other kids offered up proceeds from their animals and money just started rolling in.”
But times have been tough in the region since DHL moved out of the area several years ago, jobs are scarce and budgets are still tight. So, after helping to secure enough local Extension funding for 2011, Sarah went back to the drawing board to raise funds for 2012.
“This year she came to me and said, ‘Mom, I really need to figure out something other than just auctioning off my animal. I need to come up with something longer term that doesn’t cost anybody anything,’” Shelli said. “That is when Sarah came up with the ‘Yes We Can’ campaign.”
Sarah knew that, for every 32 aluminum cans that are recycled, they could raise 65 cents to help keep Extension in the county and her sheep in the show ring. Yes We Can got started last spring with the lofty goal of collecting 1 million cans.
“It gets the cans out of our landfills and it doesn’t cost anybody anything to raise money for Extension,” Shelli said. “People are going to throw their cans away anyway.”
Shelli designed an attractive campaign logo based on the original crayon rendering Sarah had scrawled on paper while dreaming up the idea. So far, with the help of the Marshall stockman 4-H Club, Yes We Can has raised around $16,000 through monetary donations and by recycling well over half a million cans.
“It seems to have taken off. People who don’t even have kids in 4-H will drop off their cans. We have a few drop-off points in town where we go pick the cans up,” Shelli said. “We went to the State Fair and came home with seven bags of cans. Sarah’s 4-H group has really rallied behind her and the Batesville FFA has collected close to 10,000 cans for us.”
The Youngs collect and deliver the cans and the funds all go to a non-profit 501c3.
“I can fit 10,000 cans in the back of my three-quarter ton pickup truck, they’re all strapped down of course,” Shelli said. “My garage smelled like stale beer for a while and I decided we had to get the cans out of my garage and take them to be recycled.”
They also collected cans at the North American International Livestock Exposition and at a local “Make a Difference Day” event. By mid-November, Yes We Can, when combined with other fundraising efforts in the county, had raised $43,000 and needed an additional $7,000 to keep Extension in Highland County.
Anyone interesting in helping can contact Shelli at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more, see the December issue of Ohio’s Country Journal.