Maddie Brandt and Kirt Walker got some practice in with Dexter the steer. Photo by The Ohio State University.

From the show ring to the board room and back again

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

Kirt Walker has long known the value of agriculture and 4-H participation in his youth for preparing him for his current role as the CEO of Nationwide Insurance. This summer, though, his past 4-H experience has proven particularly valuable in the newest component of his job description as a steer exhibitor at the 2022 Ohio State Fair.

Walker will be circling the show ring with Dexter the steer on Aug. 2 as part of the Dean’s Charity Steer Show. Walker is teamed up with Dexter’s exhibitor, Maddie Brandt from Tuscarawas County, her family, and Ohio Ag Net’s Dale Minyo for the event to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio.

“I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for farming. I grew up on a century farm in a small town in Iowa. My family raised hogs, cattle, soybeans, and corn. In our family when you grew up at age 10, it was automatic you joined 4-H. I joined the Irvington Pioneers. My Dad was a leader of the club for more than 20 years. I’ll never forget that it is all about head, heart, hands, and health. In high school I took FFA and then attended Iowa State and was in the Block and Bridle Club — so my family has always been attached to agriculture,” Walker said. “The opportunity to come together with Ohio State and 4-H and others in the community really came from an important cause. It is about supporting RMHC charities. Dee Anders and her team at RMHC do amazing work. It is a home away from home when families have a child in need of hospital care. Every year, Columbus Ronald McDonald House provides more than 82,000 nights of rest for more than 4,500 families. These families sometimes find themselves in need of housing and support very quickly. Sometimes they bring their children and maybe the clothes on their back and some things they threw into a single bag. It is the second largest Ronald McDonald House in the world but they are going through a major expansion and will double in size. Once completed, it will be the largest in the world. It will have 202 guest rooms, a new kitchen, dining facilities and a community event room. At the end of the day, it is all about those kids and their families.”

Walker, Minyo and Brandt, in their group coined the Dynamic Trio by Brandt, have met to get ready for the show.

“I had an opportunity to practice. I will admit I’m a little rusty. It has been over 30 years since I have led a steer. Maddie Brandt was a great coach and gave me some pointers,” Walker said. “Often you hear negative things about the youth of America, but I think we have incredible hope for the future. The Brandt family is a great example of a 4-H family. They are a great example of 4-H and the impact agriculture can have on youth. You want to talk about a strong work ethic, it is the Brandt family. Maddie is an awesome teammate. She is involved in sports and a great student.” 

Brandt daily works with her parents, Josh and Jill, and brother Jackson, rinsing, washing, feeding, watering, and walking their cattle and hog projects. She is going to be freshman at Dover High School.

“We’ve been to all the BEST shows and I did pretty well. We also went to some jackpot shows,” Brandt said. “Dexter is pretty well behaved. He walks right into set most of the time.” 

The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) is hosting the Dean’s Charity Steer Show from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Cooper Arena at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair.

“This exciting event brings together our community to celebrate agriculture and children, both for our 4-H youth as well as children benefiting from the Ronald McDonald House,” said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “Every dollar we raise means families can stay together only steps away from their hospitalized child during one of the most stressful times of their lives.”

Located across the street from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provides not only lodging, but also meals, a place to rest, laundry facilities, an exercise room, informal gathering areas, and activities for siblings of hospitalized children. To raise funds for RMHC, 11 celebrity exhibitors, most of whom have no livestock experience, will not only show a steer during the Dean’s Charity Steer Show, but will also compete to see who can raise the most money. Most exhibitors will team with a local media personality as well as an experienced 4-H livestock family and their steer, and will practice with them before entering the show ring.

Families and 4-H youth, most from central Ohio, will participate and represent the counties of Clark, Fairfield, Gallia, Geauga, Highland, Muskingum, Stark, Tuscarawas, Warren, and Wayne. Celebrity exhibitors will include Walker; Troy Balderson, public servant; Matt Harper, McDonald’s owner/operator; Tom Feeney, executive chairman, Belron North America; Clark Kellogg, former Ohio State and NBA player and CBS Sports college basketball analyst; Bob Kendrick, anchor, ABC-6 News; Rick Ricart, Ricart Automotive; Jane Scott, executive director, Columbus Metropolitan Club; Ryan Smith, president, University of Rio Grande; Gene Smith, senior vice president and athletic director, Ohio State; and Bill Patterson, president, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Media personalities will include Minyo, Joe Boxer, host, WCOL radio; Angela An, news anchor, WBNS-10 TV; Matt Barnes, morning co-anchor, NBC-4 TV; Cameron Fontana, entertainment reporter and host, ABC 6/FOX 28/CW, Good Day Columbus; Kayla Hanley, morning radio personality, 92.3 WCOL radio; Tim Irr, news anchor, WSAZ-TV News Channel 3, Huntington, West Virginia; and Ty Higgins, senior director of communications, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

More than 900 spectators attended the inaugural Dean’s Charity Steer Show in 2019, and nearly 8,000 tuned in to watch via livestream on Facebook. Donation amounts ranged from 81 cents to $15,000, with a total of $152,000 raised for RMHC.

The Dean’s Charity Steer Show is coordinated by CFAES, the Telhio Credit Union, and the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, and it is held in partnership with the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair. To learn more and to donate to your favorite celebrity exhibitor or media personality, visit give.osu.edu/deanscharitysteershow.

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