Tom and Christi Oakley met at a 4-H function, which may have foreshadowed that their family would one day be named the Riley County 4-H Family of the Year.
The Oakleys, with their two daughters, Amanda and Shannon, received the honor this year after generations of being involved in 4-H.
“We’re tied to it pretty tightly,” Christi said.
Amanda, a junior at K-State, and Shannon, a freshman at K-State, followed in their parents footsteps somewhat and did some of the same projects their parents did.
They showed pigs and sheep, like their father, but also did food and fashion projects like their mother.
“There’s a sense of pride that they’re doing something you did and you’re hoping they enjoy it,” Tom said.
However, Christi said, it was often even more rewarding to see her daughters develop their own interests. For example, one of the girls was more interested in baking bread than some of the foods her mother had made as a 4-Her.
“It was exciting to see her develop her own skills as well,” Christi said.
The Oakleys said they enjoyed watching their daughters develop skills like interviewing with judges. As they got older, they got to pass on their knowledge to younger 4-H members.
“They got to mentor, which adds a lot to it, being looked up to,” Christi said.
Although this aspect was important, she said her daughters were always looking to the next project.
“As soon as they were finished with a project, they’d think about what they wanted to do next year,” she said.
This passion is a large part of why the entire family has stayed involved for so long. It also strengthened their bond by giving them a chance to spend time together at fairs and club meetings.
Christi got spend even more time with 4-Hers by chaperoning a trip to Washington, D.C., when one of the girls took part in the Citizenship Washington Focus Program.
She said she enjoyed getting to know them better, as well as seeing 4-Hers from other states, seeing national landmarks and meeting legislators like Pat Roberts.
“I already knew a lot of the youths, but I got to know them a bit better,” she said. “It was a good experience.”
Now that Amanda and Shannon are no longer members of 4-H, the family still finds ways to stay involved.
Tom, Christi and Amanda have all served as superintendents, helping with the fair. Tom is a former head of the Riley County 4-H Foundation. Both Tom and Christi served as community leaders, now referred to as key leaders, helping to guide clubs in the county.
And they plan to keep 4-H in their lives for a long time.
“It’s rewarding to see the youth,” Tom said. “You see them at the fair after they’ve completed their 4-H career and they’re mature, respected citizens.”