SHOEMAKERSVILLE, Pa.— Jonathon Werley had to get creative this year to put his dairy beef steer project toward the greater good.
In the past, the Berks County 4-H member has donated 10% of his earnings from his champion cattle to the American Cancer Society and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.
But because of the coronavirus pandemic, many fairs are canceled this year, wiping out the youth livestock sales where bidders pay a premium to support ag’s next generation.
So Werley, 17, decided to hold a virtual cow chip bingo, hoping to raise $6,400 for Make-A-Wish.
Werley laid out 256 squares in his family’s pasture. Participants could pay $25 for a random square, or $100 for five squares.
The Werley family says 100% of the donations will go to Make-A-Wish.
At 6 p.m. Aug. 1, Werley will send his steers, Bentley and Winston, into the marked-off paddock. If a steer relieves itself on a square assigned to a donor, that person wins $200.
Sixty-two people donated just over $3,000.
“Whatever I can do to help people feel better about where they are and help bring them up — that’s what I try to do,” Werley said.
Serving the community is a big part of Werley’s life.
For the past four years, Werley’s steers have done the honors at cow chip bingos to support muscular dystrophy research.
Those events have been sponsored by Harley-Davidson and Tompkins VIST Bank, where Werley’s father, Travis, works as an agricultural financial adviser.
Last year, Werley’s Make-A-Wish contribution from selling his steers went to building a tree house for Lancaster teen Isaiah Shorter, who was diagnosed with an advanced brain tumor.
Travis Werley drove to Albany, New York, to pick up the foundation posts and delivered them to Shorter’s family. The tree house, intended to keep Isaiah focused on his recovery, was completed last October.
“It’s great to see that every single dollar, every cent that you earn is going to help a wish child, giving them the encouragement to live and the encouragement to look forward to something,” Jonathon said.
Since he was 8, Jonathon has packed and delivered Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to needy people in Lancaster city with his father.
The Werleys also give some youths a start in agriculture by offering sharecropping arrangements on their farm.
“Always give a hand up and help the next person,” said Lisa Werley, Jonathon’s mother.
A junior at Schuylkill Valley High School, Werley is a member of the Leo club, a youth branch of Lions Club International.
He is a member of Glad Tidings Church in West Lawn and has gone on mission trips as far away as Pontiac, Michigan.
That trip proved to Werley that he could make a difference, even as a teen. He considers it his responsibility to support younger generations.
“You never know. One of those kids could be the one to find the cure to cancer. But if you don’t give them the opportunity to do what they love, then that’s a lost chance,” Werley said.