LINCOLN COUNTY — When longtime 4-H parent Patti Murphy saw a lack of access to the clubs of her county, she knew she had to do something about it.
Her quest began with requesting accessibility improvements for those in wheelchairs, such as her son and husband. But after years of having to point out and make room for those with special and accessibility needs, she decided to take things into her own hands, saying that her approach “is not to fight it, but to fix it.”
Now, after years of envisioning it, Murphy is starting a club: 4-H 4 Ability, an all-inclusive multi-purpose club for those who might normally find it difficult to get access to activities because of economic, locational or medical challenges.
“I see a need for outreach in terms of both diversity and accessibility,” said Murphy. “This is a very wonderful, diverse community and everyone has something to contribute.”
In particular, the goal of the club is to reach out to children in special education and those with limited mobility, vision or hearing. However, the club is not limited to those with special needs: Murphy also hopes to welcome children from the foster system, from immigrant families and from low-income homes. For those who can’t afford club dues, there are scholarships.
Murphy also emphasized that she wants the club’s activities and direction to be “kid-directed.” That philosophy includes allowing the club’s members to choose the types of activities and projects they would like to pursue. Because the club is multi-purpose, members will be able to take on individual projects that differ from their other club members, making a place for those who want to pursue areas not encompassed by current clubs.
This widespread club would have meetings throughout the county, as well as field meetings with educational experiences and service or recreation activities on non-school days.
It’s taken a lot of organization. However, Murphy has a flexible schedule and plenty of determination — she has also already compiled a list of people who would be willing to be speakers or activity leaders in north and west county.
The club is seeking two things right now: help providing transportation for children — particularly from school to club meetings — and input from potential members and parents on what they would like to see the club do or how to accommodate club members best.
“It doesn’t mean we’re perfect or we’ll have everything in place when they come in the door,” said Murphy. “But we’re certainly willing to try and find a way to make sure they can be included.”
Currently, the club is still in the planning stages and seeks members, volunteers and collaborators. While there is no set first meeting, Murphy will be hosting informational meetings at the Driftwood Public Library from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 and 27. For more information about the club, email Murphy at [email protected]. For more information about 4-H, contact the OSU Extension for Lincoln County at 541-574-6534.