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Laramie – In addition to setting new policy and installing new leaders for 2017, Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) honored the recipients of the Friend of Farm Bureau and Distinguished Leadership Awards during their 97th annual meeting, held in Laramie Nov. 10-12.

Friend of Farm Bureau

WyFB nominated retiring Congressman Cynthia Lummis, Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso to the American Farm Bureau Federation for the prestigious Friend of Farm Bureau Award.

“I am standing in front of people who have provided me wise counsel and good guidance, input and ideas, thoughtfulness and have been great stewards of the land, the water and the air in our beloved state of Wyoming,” said Lummis.

Lummis commended WyFB and Wyoming agriculturalists for their dedication to caring for Wyoming’s heritage and resources.

“This organization is special because it’s comprised of people who care so very deeply for our state, do as I, and we will continue to work together throughout our lives to continue that wonderful tradition of Wyoming being the most exceptional, most wonderful state in which to be involved with agriculture, to raise a family and to have a small business,” she said.

She expressed her appreciation for the support and guidance that the WyFB has given her during her service in the legislature.

“To have guidance and wise counsel and to be with WyFB means a great deal to me,” said Lummis. “Family and faith go together with this organization and agriculture. I salute this organization. Thank you very, very much.”

Selfless

WyFB recognized Crook County President and Northeast District Vice President Frank Hawken as the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award.

WyFB President Todd Fornstrom explained that Hawken has been involved with the WyFB throughout his life.

“He has served the Farm Bureau in every capacity from the local president to staff for the WyFB,” said Fornstrom.

Hawken’s work ethic set him apart and is an example to those that he is leading, continued Fornstrom.

“He is the epitome of a servant leader, always leading by example and working hard to achieve any goal,” he commented.

In addition to Hawken’s service to the WyFB, he also is actively involved in other local organizations.

“He lends his leadership to numerous local service organizations and causes. He is always quick to volunteer and does so graciously. Frank’s unselfish attitude makes any organization he’s involved in flourish,” concluded Fornstrom.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation runs out of a central office in Casper, and their staff of five works hard to accomplish their goals and meet the needs of young people through the state who qualify for a wish.

“As a staff of five, it would be nearly impossible for us to cover the entire state and reach all the children who are referred to us,” says Tess Kersenbrock, community relations coordinator with Make-A-Wish Wyoming. “Without volunteers, we would not be able to grant Wyoming wishes.”

Volunteer roles

Most of the volunteers with Make-A-Wish are called wish granters. Wish granters work directly with families.

“Our volunteers do the initial meeting with families, which we call a wish visit, to get to know the family and the child a little better,” Morgan Legerski, Make-A-Wish Wyoming CEO, says. “They talk through the paperwork and visit with the child about what their wish is or help them brainstorm ideas for their wish.”

Volunteers also help in coordinating wish enhancements, which are extras added by Make-A-Wish Wyoming to make the child’s wish special.

“We always try to do something fun, which we call a wish enhancement,” Legerski comments. “It might be a send-off party or a limo ride to the airport, but our volunteers are important in helping to coordinate those things.”

Volunteers also donate their time and skills to help Make-A-Wish Wyoming raise funds necessary to grant wishes.

Legerski adds, “We wouldn’t be able to grant 35 wishes a year in Wyoming if we didn’t have volunteers. It wouldn’t be possible.”

Becoming a volunteer

The volunteer process with Make-A-Wish Wyoming is straightforward, involving an application, interview, background check and training.

Kersenbrock comments, “Individuals over the age of 18 are able to volunteer.”

She further notes that wish granters or other volunteers who work with children must complete and application, interview with staff members and a background check, as well as several trainings.

“Beyond the basic requirement of becoming a volunteer, it is equally important that an individual is invested in our mission and willing to be creative,” Kersenbrock explains. “A wish is not a single experience but a life changing event. It is important that those who are interested in volunteering with our organization truly share this belief.”

Volunteers in Wyo

The 60 volunteers across the state of Wyoming all share a passion for Make-A-Wish, and they give their time to making wishes of seriously ill children come through.

“As a volunteer, we really get the fun part and the whole experience, getting to meet kids and their families and really exploring their life,” says Shantel Anderson, a volunteer from Laramie. “We get to find out what’s going on, how treatments are progressing and then get to delve into the fun of the wish.”

Bonnie Aksamit of Ranchester, another volunteer, adds, “It’s very rewarding to be a wish granter. It’s nice to do what I can to see kids’ wishes come true.”

Anderson adds that wish granters have the opportunity to help children determine what their wish will be.

“We coordinate and send that information into the office, and the ladies in Casper do the hard work of making the wish happen,” she says. “We get to be involved in the fun parts, putting the specials touches on, revealing the wish and putting on parties for them. This is the fun side.”

Ag connections

“According to statistics from our national office, we know we are not reaching about half of the eligible children in Wyoming,” Kersenbrock adds. “That means that for every referral we receive, there is a child we are missing.”

She continues, “Wyoming is a large, rural state, and it is because of our 60 volunteers across the state that wishes are possible.”

Anderson, who was raised in the ag industry, says, “There’s a lot of children who have wishes that relate to the ag industry. Kids want to ride horses, visit ranches or other things.”

“The ag community as a whole also tends to be very giving in nature, and they focus on being part of a community,” she says.

Need for help

With about 30 wishes pending in the state, Kersenbrock notes that the need for volunteers continues to grow.

She adds, “At this time, we are specifically looking for volunteers in Lander, Riverton, Rock Springs, Green River, Cody and Gillette, though we can benefit from new volunteers in every community.”

Aksamit explains that there are volunteer options available for people who have lots of time to spend with the program, as well as those who only have a few hours a year.

“In the last year, I’ve probably helped grant five or six wishes,” she says. “Normally, it’s closer to two or three, and for each wish, I spend 10 to 12 hours total with the families.”

She also comments, however, that there are opportunities to be involved in planning special events, helping with fundraising and other opportunities.

“Volunteering is really rewarding,” Aksamit notes. “It’s not a lot of time out of my day or my month or my year, but it’s really fulfilling to see kids’ faces light up.”

She also notes that it is important to have enough people to help out.

“I live in Ranchester, but I go as far as Buffalo to help grant wishes,” she comments. “If we go to a child’s home, there must be two wish granters, so more volunteers would be helpful.”

“It’s great to work with kids, and it’s fun to see what they wish for,” Aksamit adds. “Make-A-Wish is a really wonderful organization to be involved with.”

For those considering the chance to volunteer with Make-A-Wish, Anderson says, “Just go for it. There is nothing to lose by being a volunteer, and there are so many options for people to consider, depending on how much time they have. Everything makes a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Kersenbrock adds, “We especially want to thank those who help us and encourage others to consider giving their time and energy to Make-A-Wish Wyoming.”

This is part two of a three-part feature on Make-A -Wish Wyoming. Look for part three in the Dec. 3 paper, where we will look at one child's wish.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Billings, Mont. – Among a wide variety of shows and events, the NILE’s Merit Heifer Show brought big success for one South Dakota youth. Raina Perli of Rapid City, S.D. was one of 22 youth who received a heifer this year. Perli received a heifer from Dave and Dianna Oedekoven of Oedekoven Angus for the 2016 Merit Heifer Program.

NILE heifer

Perli, an 18-year-old senior at Rapid City Christian and the daughter of Keith and Jacque Perli, has been showing cattle for as long as she can remember.

“I got my first heifer when I was four,” she says. “I didn’t start showing them, but I remember helping since when I was a clover bud in 4-H.”

“It’s been our family tradition that we have cows and come to county fair to show them,” Perli continues. “My desire to do that has really grown as I’ve continued to show cattle.”

Several years ago, Perli received a heifer from the South Dakota Legacy Program, which is similar to the Merit Heifer Program at the NILE.

She was excited about the results of being involved in the program, saying, “I really learned a lot working with other outside genetics and producers.”

Then, two years ago, her mother Jacque visited the NILE, learning about the Merit Heifer Program and sharing the information with her daughter.

“I knew I wanted to get involved in the program, so I started my application in July,” Perli says. “We had to make a five minute YouTube video about our facilities, why we should be selected and the activities that we’re in. Then, we had a second application that was a paper application.”

Along with the written application, applicants were required to submit three letters of recommendation. An essay is also required for the applications.

“I received a letter saying that I had been chosen for the Merit Heifer Program, and the Oedekovens were my donors,” she says.

Learning about the industry

Perli says that she received her heifer in October.

“The Oedekovens were generous and let me pick between 10 and 15 heifers,” she comments. “I wasn’t able to make it to Sheridan to look at the heifers because I was in volleyball. I looked at the heifers and pedigrees, and I visited with my mom.”

Perli adds, “I chose my heifer because of her femininity and her feet, combined with how familiar I was with her pedigree. It matched up well with the genetics that I have in my herd already.”

When the heifer was delivered to her home, Perli says she jumped right in.

“I got my heifer in October, and our first report was due in January,” she comments, noting that program participants were required to submit monthly reports on their participation.

In addition, participants were required call in to a group conference call each month for the first four months of the year.

“We had a monthly conference call where someone who was knowledgeable in the industry talked to us about topics like artificial insemination, breeding, nutrition and other things,” she says. “Our monthly reports had questions based on those calls.”

Mentors

Perli notes that her partnership with the Oedekovens was really valuable.

“Any questions that I had, they answered,” she says, “and they didn’t make me feel like I was asking stupid questions.”

While students in the program were required to maintain monthly contact with their mentors, Perli says that she often was in contact with the Oedekovens several times a month.

“I had a lot of questions,” she comments. “The Oedekovens were always very encouraging. They answered my questions, and they were very helpful all around.”

Perli adds, “I’d like to give a huge thank you to the donors of this program. By stepping up and giving kids this opportunity, they help make this generation more aware about agriculture and stay committed to the industry.”

Winning the show

“NILE is a really big deal,” Perli says. “People come from across the country. There are a lot of different breeds represented under one building. It’s just an honor to win there.”

Perli adds that her goal was to take the heifer and represent herself and the Oedekovens as well as she could while also representing the Merit Heifer program to the best of her ability.

“I had to go out and show, and that’s all I can do,” she continues.

Perli began at the Angus show, where her heifer didn’t place in her class.

“We were up against some really stiff competition,” Perli comments. “The next day, in the Merit Heifer Show, the judge told me to go stand up by the crowd. I was shocked when I realized that mean I won.”

She continues, “It took a couple of days to sink in. It was unexpected but very exciting.”

Perli recommends that youth should be involved in the Merit Heifer program, if possible.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she comments. “I learned so much, not only through dealing with and meeting new people but also through showing cattle. It is a valuable program.”

“The Merit Heifer program is about more than just showing,” Perli continues. “It’s about learning about the cattle industry. It’s more in-depth than just showing cattle.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Make-A-Wish Foundation runs out of a central office in Casper, and their staff of five works hard to accomplish their goals and meet the needs of young people through the state who qualify for a wish.

“As a staff of five, it would be nearly impossible for us to cover the entire state and reach all the children who are referred to us,” says Tess Kersenbrock, community relations coordinator with Make-A-Wish Wyoming. “Without volunteers, we would not be able to grant Wyoming wishes.”

Volunteer roles

Most of the volunteers with Make-A-Wish are called wish granters. Wish granters work directly with families.

“Our volunteers do the initial meeting with families, which we call a wish visit, to get to know the family and the child a little better,” Morgan Legerski, Make-A-Wish Wyoming CEO, says. “They talk through the paperwork and visit with the child about what their wish is or help them brainstorm ideas for their wish.”

Volunteers also help in coordinating wish enhancements, which are extras added by Make-A-Wish Wyoming to make the child’s wish special.

“We always try to do something fun, which we call a wish enhancement,” Legerski comments. “It might be a send-off party or a limo ride to the airport, but our volunteers are important in helping to coordinate those things.”

Volunteers also donate their time and skills to help Make-A-Wish Wyoming raise funds necessary to grant wishes.

Legerski adds, “We wouldn’t be able to grant 35 wishes a year in Wyoming if we didn’t have volunteers. It wouldn’t be possible.”

Becoming a volunteer

The volunteer process with Make-A-Wish Wyoming is straightforward, involving an application, interview, background check and training.

Kersenbrock comments, “Individuals over the age of 18 are able to volunteer.”

She further notes that wish granters or other volunteers who work with children must complete and application, interview with staff members and a background check, as well as several trainings.

“Beyond the basic requirement of becoming a volunteer, it is equally important that an individual is invested in our mission and willing to be creative,” Kersenbrock explains. “A wish is not a single experience but a life changing event. It is important that those who are interested in volunteering with our organization truly share this belief.”

Volunteers in Wyo

The 60 volunteers across the state of Wyoming all share a passion for Make-A-Wish, and they give their time to making wishes of seriously ill children come through.

“As a volunteer, we really get the fun part and the whole experience, getting to meet kids and their families and really exploring their life,” says Shantel Anderson, a volunteer from Laramie. “We get to find out what’s going on, how treatments are progressing and then get to delve into the fun of the wish.”

Bonnie Aksamit of Ranchester, another volunteer, adds, “It’s very rewarding to be a wish granter. It’s nice to do what I can to see kids’ wishes come true.”

Anderson adds that wish granters have the opportunity to help children determine what their wish will be.

“We coordinate and send that information into the office, and the ladies in Casper do the hard work of making the wish happen,” she says. “We get to be involved in the fun parts, putting the specials touches on, revealing the wish and putting on parties for them. This is the fun side.”

Ag connections

“According to statistics from our national office, we know we are not reaching about half of the eligible children in Wyoming,” Kersenbrock adds. “That means that for every referral we receive, there is a child we are missing.”

She continues, “Wyoming is a large, rural state, and it is because of our 60 volunteers across the state that wishes are possible.”

Anderson, who was raised in the ag industry, says, “There’s a lot of children who have wishes that relate to the ag industry. Kids want to ride horses, visit ranches or other things.”

“The ag community as a whole also tends to be very giving in nature, and they focus on being part of a community,” she says.

Need for help

With about 30 wishes pending in the state, Kersenbrock notes that the need for volunteers continues to grow.

She adds, “At this time, we are specifically looking for volunteers in Lander, Riverton, Rock Springs, Green River, Cody and Gillette, though we can benefit from new volunteers in every community.”

Aksamit explains that there are volunteer options available for people who have lots of time to spend with the program, as well as those who only have a few hours a year.

“In the last year, I’ve probably helped grant five or six wishes,” she says. “Normally, it’s closer to two or three, and for each wish, I spend 10 to 12 hours total with the families.”

She also comments, however, that there are opportunities to be involved in planning special events, helping with fundraising and other opportunities.

“Volunteering is really rewarding,” Aksamit notes. “It’s not a lot of time out of my day or my month or my year, but it’s really fulfilling to see kids’ faces light up.”

She also notes that it is important to have enough people to help out.

“I live in Ranchester, but I go as far as Buffalo to help grant wishes,” she comments. “If we go to a child’s home, there must be two wish granters, so more volunteers would be helpful.”

“It’s great to work with kids, and it’s fun to see what they wish for,” Aksamit adds. “Make-A-Wish is a really wonderful organization to be involved with.”

For those considering the chance to volunteer with Make-A-Wish, Anderson says, “Just go for it. There is nothing to lose by being a volunteer, and there are so many options for people to consider, depending on how much time they have. Everything makes a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Kersenbrock adds, “We especially want to thank those who help us and encourage others to consider giving their time and energy to Make-A-Wish Wyoming.”

This is part two of a three-part feature on Make-A -Wish Wyoming. Look for part three in the Dec. 3 paper, where we will look at one child's wish.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..