Media Advisory – Special 4-H event Friday, Nov. 5

What: Delaware 4-H community lighted “Walk for Joy”

Date: Friday, Nov. 5, 2010

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Duration: Approximately one half hour

Where: Boardwalk in front of Atlantic Sands Hotel

101 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach

Contact: Ernie López, 4-H Extension specialist and volunteer coordinator: elopez@udel.edu,
cell: 302-985-1213

Anticipated attendance: 300-500 people

Other: Rain or Shine

Purpose: Raise cancer awareness in a memorial walk to former Delaware 4-H Program Leader Joy Sparks who died of cancer in 2009.

Delaware 4-H members, leaders, staff, family and friends will carry glowing green light sticks and luminaries and “Walk for Joy”  along the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk-  a health exercise with a multiple purpose to raise awareness for cancer, and pay tribute to Joy Sparks.  Sparks, a lifelong Delaware 4-H’er from Kent County, enjoyed a 35-year career with 4-H, beginning as a 4-H agent in New Castle County, and which culminated as the Delaware 4-H Program Leader from 1993 until her death from cancer in 2009.

The significance of her name echoes her lasting effect on Delaware’s 4-H community. Each green light carried symbolizes many lives changed by the 4-H program under her guidance. The lights and their carriers illuminate how she sparked the joy of 4-H in Delaware youth and adults and inspired others to lead through volunteerism. Sparks elevated the Delaware 4-H Youth Development to a level of national respect and recognition. During her tenure as program leader, Delaware 4-H’s impact and reputation rose significantly and became a national model for America’s largest youth development program.

The idea to  Walk for Joy arose spontaneously during the planning sessions for the  2010 4-H Northeast Regional Volunteer Forum (NERVF), a four-day weekend of training support for adult volunteers from 12 surrounding states. The forum begins on Thursday, Nov. 4 and continues through Sunday, Nov. 7.

“While Joy was a dedicated and beloved member of the 4-H family here in Delaware, her reputation and great work during her career earned her respect and praise from friends throughout the Northeast and around the country,” said Ernie Lopez, University of Delaware 4-H Extension specialist and volunteer coordinator.   “This is a fitting tribute to a caring and capable person who always put others above herself.  We miss her dearly.”

In addition to honoring Joy’s memory and influence, the walk is an opportunity to raise cancer awareness and promote 4-H’s mission to encourage healthy lifestyles through exercise. The entire Delaware 4-H community, from all three counties, has been invited to join the 300 NERVF attendees in the lighted walk.  Weather and tide permitting, participants plan to form a large J-O-Y in the sand. Members of the Sparks family will be on hand.

Delaware 4-H gears up to host NERVF forum, Walk for Joy tribute

Before the pumpkins get chunked and autumn leaves turn towards Thanksgiving, the Rehoboth and Lewes area will experience an infusion of green four-leafed clovers from Nov. 4-7. There’s no need to adjust calendars-the clovers are the official 4-H emblem and they will be ushered to the coastal region with the help of 300 enthusiastic adult volunteers and extension staff from 13 Northeast region states.

That weekend, Delaware 4-H will serve as host to neighbor states from Maine to West Virginia. The weekend forum, held at the Atlantic Sands in Rehoboth, offers training for new and established leaders. Volunteers have the opportunity to network, train in specific content areas, and recognize excellence through the annual Salute to Excellence awards program.

Every two years, 4-H volunteers, known as leaders, travel to a state in the northeast for a four- day weekend, which includes area tours, two days of workshop sessions, resource exchange and fellowship. Delaware 4-H will host again in approximately 26 years.

Ernesto López, 4-H Extension Specialist with the University of Delaware, along with a committee of Delaware volunteers from all three counties involving both UD and Delaware State University, will soon see the culmination of two years of dedicated work and planning. It’s been a labor of love.

“The Cape area is home for me and many other members of the Delaware 4-H family, López said. “Those of us who have been planning this forum are excited to welcome our friends and colleagues from throughout the Northeast to beautiful Sussex County.  The support we have received from local business, and the community as a whole, has been terrific and I have no doubt the forum will be a great success!”

In addition to visiting well-known area attractions and taking workshops across 4-H’s diverse range of project curriculum areas, including robotics, textiles and clothing, healthy lifestyles and archery, attendees will have time to explore the area on their own.

Delaware’s coastal region and tax free shopping are also an attraction. Many will be visiting the First State for the first time and have expressed an eagerness to fit in some holiday shopping during their weekend.

Delaware 4-H is supported by Cooperative Extension at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. As a direct result of volunteers, more than 64,000 Delaware youth in traditional 4-H clubs, day and overnight camps and afterschool programs have been exposed to the benefits 4-H curriculum.

Joy Sparks

The public is invited to witness a special event on Friday evening. Beginning at 7:30 p.m., the greater 4-H community will join approximately 300 forum attendees on the boardwalk in front of the hotel to begin a lighted Walk for Joy, a health exercise with dual purpose to raise awareness for cancer, and pay tribute to Joy Sparks.  Sparks, a lifelong 4-H’er was the 4-H Program Leader from 1993 until her death from cancer in 2009.  The significance of her name echoes her lasting effect on Delaware’s 4-H community. Each green light carried during the walk represents how she sparked the joy of 4-H in Delaware youth and adults.

For more information, contact Ernie López at (302) 856-2585, ext. 561