By Catherine Festa, TSB Staff
It was easy to tell that Sierra Francis was in her natural environment, sitting outside on the grass at the McKinney Future Farmers of America barn. With her hair pulled back and a paisley shirt paired with jeans and cowboy boots, she seemed more than comfortable in her own skin.
Sierra, a senior at McKinney Boyd, was also proud of herself. She’d just pulled it off. She’d just put on her own livestock show.
It wasn’t easy. It’s been 11 years in the making for Sierra to obtain the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive, a gold award. Sure, when most people hear the word girl scouts, they might think of younger girls selling cookies. But in girl scouts there are three levels; bronze, silver and gold.
Sierra has gotten to the end of her Girl Scout experience with only the gold award left. In order to receive this high honor, she must complete a service project that reaches out to the community. For Sierra, she decided to put on a first-of-its-kind livestock show for special needs children. That decision was a no-brainer because of her experience in FFA and years of showing livestock.
“I have been showing animals such as lambs, goats and steers for years,” Sierra said. “I love the experience and what it’s taught me, so I thought it would be a great thing for the special needs kids to do. I believe that every kid should have the opportunity to do whatever they put their minds to. Livestock showing is such a difference experience that I could see them having great possibilities to come from it.”
So, Sierra spent six months planning and preparing for the event. In order to comply with the guidelines of the gold award, she had to make a financial plan, write a budget, make a flyer, get 100 volunteers, find special needs children that wanted to participate, and secure T-shirt and trophy donations.
She also worked to secure Myers Park for the venue, choosing Oct. 20 for the show, in conjunction with the larger Collin County 4-H livestock show.
“There have been a lot of man hours and planning, doing, and thinking that has gone into this,” Sierra said. “You’ve got to think what the capabilities we can do in this time frame, especially with the special needs of each child.”
In fact, Sierra was inspired to make it a function for special needs children after she met a special needs girl at one of her livestock shows. After talking with her and seeing the beaming grin on her face, she knew how badly she wanted to make this happen.
“I think every child involved in the event will grow,” Sierra said. “I mean, how cool will it be for them to 10 years from now say, ‘Hey remember when I showed a goat!’”
Before doing the show, the kids got to know the animals and get comfortable with them. The special needs children got to show lambs and goats along with one volunteer on hand to help ensure their safety.
“You can bond and connect with the animals and learn from them because they’re so dependent on you,” Sierra said.
Her mom, Sarah, dad, Dough, and sister, Savannagh were by her side as she completed her event on a successful note.
“My family has been incredibly involved in this process,” Sierra said. “My sister is also in FFA and she has helped me dot the i’s and cross the t’s. My dad has been the problem solver and has made sure I have thought of everything that needs to happen to make sure it’s a success. My mom has helped me a ton with the social media aspect, plus she’s my adviser and mentor for this project.”
With Sierra being a senior, she has high hopes for the event to continue after this first year.
“I’ve left the event in the hands of three organizations that I know can — and want — to do it,” Sierra said. “I’ve been keeping track of every step I have taken to make sure they know what to do.”
With her big event complete, she can expect to receive her gold award at the ceremony in April.
“I feel so proud of myself,” Sierra said. “This is big. I really care for special needs kids and I want to see them have every possibility possible. Making this come true makes me feel like I’m actually making a positive impact on more than one person’s life.”