Pig show at Ohio State Fair offers show-ring experience to disabled youth

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Maddie and Miley Caldwell mentor Joel Buyer
Sisters Maddie and Miley Caldwell mentor Joel Buyer at the inaugural 2023 Breaking Boundaries Pig Show, July 28, at the Ohio State Fair. (Submitted photo)

COLUMBUS — Miley Caldwell is no stranger to the show ring. She’s been showing pigs in Ohio and throughout the country for several years.

That’s why she wanted to be involved with the Breaking Boundaries Pig Show, a mentorship program for youth and young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The show, presented by the Ohio Pork Council and the OH-PIGS youth swine program on July 28 at the Ohio State Fair, gave five participants with disabilities the opportunity to care for and show pigs in front of a state fair audience complete with judges with help from 25 youth mentors.

Miley wanted to share her love of the activity with others, but it also opened her eyes to the challenges others face on a daily basis.

“Giving them the same opportunity that my peers and I have just opens doors to see how working with animals can bring us all together,” she said.

Miley and her sister, Maddie, both of Leesburg, Ohio, mentored participant Joel Buyer during the show.

“Even though [he] was in a wheelchair, he was still very capable of showing a pig,” she said. “He wasn’t scared and was really excited about showing, which allowed him to do a great job.”

Background

Kelly Morgan, OH-PIGS manager, and Ohio State Fair assistant swine superintendent, and Cheryl Day, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council, came up with the idea last year for a show to accommodate children with different needs.

“We know the real-world life lessons that are gained in the show ring for so many youths around Ohio and the nation and we wanted to create that type of opportunity for this special group of young people, too,” Morgan said.

“While the experience may have only been for one evening at the state fair, we hope that for the young people and their families that this inaugural show created a lifelong memory that creates good emotions.”

Morgan said there were few dry eyes in the barn and a lot of smiles during the show. Day said it went so well that they hope to make it an annual event at the state fair.

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