Raising animals, giving back

4-H’er donates fair winnings to Alzheimer’s, cancer research

MANISTEE — When one Manistee County Fair ends, preparation for another begins.

Grace Servinski, 11, of Manistee and a member of 4-H of Manistee County, showed one pig, one steer, four turkeys, a horse, 12 rabbits, three chickens and two pigeons during this year’s fair.

“Every year after August, I’m already starting to prep for the fair because I like to start early and that’s usually how I place so well,” Servinski said.

Last year, she received second place for showmanship with one of her pigs — which was later sold — and seventh place in the marketing class. She also obtained fourth place with her turkeys.

The awards don’t come easy though.

In the lead up to the fair, Servinski said she spends about an hour or two a day with all of her animals on her family’s farm, owned by her mother, Elaine Bossingham.

“I tie up my steer calf every day, which he’s tied up for two hours,” she said. “I spend an hour with my turkeys. I spend an hour with my pig, which that’s how long I walk him for.”

She also spends time practicing the techniques she needs to know for the judges. that takes place during the middle of the week, then the auction occurs on Thursday of the week of the fair.

Techniques involving rabbits for the fair include showing and fitting them, she said.

“When you fit them, you’re basically turning them upside down and you’re covering all of their body parts,” Servinski said. “With the turkeys, you’re having them getting used to you and you’re practicing petting them and their feathers. You turn them upside down sometimes, just to get them used to that. You don’t really touch their face at all, only to move their noodle to see if it’s undamaged and see if the nostrils are clear and unclogged.”

Being a part of 4-H has more meaning for Servinski, as she donates much of her prize money to organizations to fight diseases that have impacted her family.

“With my turkey pen last year, I made close to $1,200, but from them, I donated money to the Munson Cancer Fund for my Grandma Servinski, who died of ovarian cancer,” Servinski said. “I just wanted to help out and see what I could do to help those people that are experiencing that horrible disease.”

Also, she’ll be donating auction money made from selling her Great White turkeys to the Greater Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of her grandmother Uledene Merrill.

“My grandma, she’s been battling Alzheimer’s for six years,” she said. “That’s kind of hard because I don’t get to see her very much because she’s all the way up in Frankfort. Sometimes when I go there, she kind of forgets my name and it’s not very fun having her forget who you are. She’s forgotten other people but she doesn’t really forget my mom because they spend a lot of time together.”

Bossingham said that last year, 95 patients at the Munson Cancer Patient Fund benefitted from the money Servinski donated.

“The fund goes directly to the patients so if they need money (for gas) to go to their appointments, if they need money for groceries or a babysitter or a wig, (they get it),” she said. “It’s anything that helps them get through their recovery.”

Bossingham said the donated funds to the Greater Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association go toward research and providing snoezelen rooms, or rooms that give patients calming, helpful interactions to deal better with their disease.

The legacy of 4-H extends to Bossingham, who participated in 4-H in her teens; 4-Her’s can participate until they are 19 years old.

“I’m from Benzonia, so we went to the (Grand Traverse County) fair,” Bossingham said. “I always had cattle, pigs, rabbits and chickens. It just brought a huge experience for me because I was able to learn a lot about the industry.”

That experience isn’t just being passed down to her daughter though.

“We help an awful lot of kids that don’t have the opportunity,” Bossingham said. “When you see them smile and see them laugh and the friendships they make, that’s, to me, the most rewarding part. Plus, they are learning how to care for several different animals. It teaches them responsibility and a nurturing, which a lot of kids don’t get that because they don’t have the environment.”

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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