ROCKWOOD, ONT. (August 24, 2021) – 4-H Ontario proudly announces the recipients of the 2021 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Club Leader Award, sponsored by Gay Lea Foods. The 2021 recipients include Rachel Skippen of Manitoulin 4-H Association (Region 1), Denise Beaudette-Manley of Stormont 4-H Association (Region 2), April Jean Hickson of Kawartha Lakes Haliburton 4-H Association (Region 3), Robert Matson of Peel 4-H Association (Region 4), Jessica Bester of Grey 4-H Association (Region 5), and Alison Buckrell of Oxford 4-H Association (Region 6).   

The 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Club Leader Award celebrates volunteers who have been 4-H club leaders for less than three years and embody the 4-H pledge in their work with local youth. Nominations are accepted across the province, with one award given in each region. Award recipients receive a custom print commissioned by 4-H Ontario and sponsored by Gay Lea Foods. 

“This year’s recipients of the 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Club Leader Award are prime examples for how 4-H volunteers bring the best of their heads, hearts, hands, and health to their work with youth each and every day,” says Megan Burnside-Poitras, Volunteer Support Team Lead, 4-H Ontario. “In only a few years, these dedicated individuals have contributed in tremendously impactful ways and our program is better for having them involved.” 

“Gay Lea is pleased to partner with 4-H Ontario and offer support to recognize the 4-H volunteers selected for this award. These leaders demonstrate the 4-H ideals to their members, delivering valuable leadership and life skills to our youth. We congratulate them on receiving this award and encourage them to continue to influence in their communities,” says Marie McNabb, Director, Gay Lea Foods. 

Read on to learn about the 2021 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Club Leader Award recipients. 

Rachel Skippen 

Region 1 – Manitoulin 4-H Association 

Rachel has been a 4-H volunteer since 2018. She has been a 4-H leader in Beef club, Trash To Treasure club, and Basic Sewing clubs, and the spearhead of the Cloverbud Program in the Manitoulin 4-H Association. Rachel extends her efforts beyond leading clubs by assisting with events and fundraising and encouraging 4-H’ers to take part in all that 4-H has to offer. She also holds several positions at the local level.  Her co-leader, Cori, comments that Rachel, “Welcomed every youth along with their families at the beginning of our meetings, establishing a safe, friendly, and warm atmosphere, where differences were celebrated.  Participants were inspired to use their various strengths on each project and take pride in their accomplishments.”  Participants from one of Rachel’s clubs remark that they “Hope she will be one of (their) leaders for many years to come.” 

Denise Beaudette-Manley  
Region 2 – Stormont 4-H Association 

Denise became a leader in 2018 and has led eight clubs ranging from Scrapbooking club to Working with Wool club. As a past 4-H’er herself, Denise is a strong advocate for the 4-H program and became a volunteer even though her own children were too old to participate in 4-H clubs. Over the years, she has encouraged numerous youth to participate in both life-skill and agricultural projects. She is a believer in the importance of inclusivity and celebrating the different prospective and skills each participant brings to a club.  4-H participant, Lillian remarks that, “Denise is such an optimistic leader. Her high enthusiasm is contagious throughout the club, Denise is always encouraging everyone to take things to the next level. In the Craft Club, she happily delivered supplies to everyone, whenever needed. Denise always goes above and beyond making each meeting different from the last!” Denise’s efforts extend beyond her clubs, as she also lends a helping hand at fundraisers and other local events.   

April-Jean Hickson 

Region 3 – Kawartha Lakes Haliburton 4-H Association 

April-Jean Hickson is an active volunteer in both the Kawartha Lakes Haliburton (KLH) 4-H Association and Waterloo 4-H Association.  Her heart beats with a strong passion for the 4-H program and she has excelled at bringing virtual clubs to youth, always keeping them engaged, interested, and continuously coming back.  As part of the Region 3/4 virtual judging competition planning committee, the KLH 4-H Association Evaluation Committee, and a director on the KLH 4-H Association Board of Directors, she works toward promoting and continuing the traditions of 4-H that she valued as a participant. She willingly shares her passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm not only with club participants but also with her fellow club leaders. As her co-leader John says, “4-H is a program for the development of youth. April-Jean has been a very active participant who has now grown into a very active leader and volunteer, and what a tremendous example that sets for other 4-H’ers.”   

Robert Matson  
Region 4 – Peel 4-H Association 

Robert began volunteering in 2019, immediately after graduating from the 4-H program. In his short volunteer tenure, he has already led six clubs, ranging from Dairy club to Cake Decorating club, and in 2020 he joined the Peel 4-H Association Board of Directors.  Robert has been an enthusiastic leader since the day he graduated from the 4-H program, eagerly planning new experiences to be incorporated into clubs, particularly through virtual 4-H experiences in the last two years.  His passion shines through each club he leads, and he is always one of the first to say “thank you” to others for their hard work and to ensure that other volunteers are honoured for their contributions.  “He executes all that he does with his head, heart, hands and health leading the way and is a great mentor. He is a selfless leader, and a great role model for our 4-H’ers,” says co-leader, Lindsay.  4-H participant, Mel remarks, “Robert has made a great impact on myself and others, making him a very deserving recipient of the 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Leader award.”  

Jessica Bester  
Region 5 – Grey 4-H Association 

Jessica is a dedicated 4-H leader in every sense of the word.  After becoming involved with 4-H while looking for new activities for her children, Jessica quickly stepped up to begin leading the Rabbit club, followed by the Sheep club. Challenges posed throughout the pandemic were no match for Jessica and she worked with others to offer youth amazing, safe experiences online and in person.  Co-leader Jeff says, “Jessica is very knowledgeable, kind and courteous. She goes the extra mile to help youth understand and achieve excellence.”  One such youth, Delaney, adds, “As a 4-H’er who has been involved in a variety of 4-H clubs, in and out of Grey County, I have been fortunate to experience exceptional leadership that has helped foster my love for 4-H.  Jessica is among the charismatic leaders that makes both new and more experienced 4-H’ers excited for meetings and 4-H activities.”   

Alison Buckrell 

Region 6 – Oxford 4-H Association 

Alison is always ready to jump in to help or lend a hand, whether it be within her 4-H club or at events within the county. She continuously thinks of ways to inspire improvement within youth and club programming and is a great listener and problem solver.  Alison shares her passion for the 4-H program with everyone she meets and is always looking to help 4-H’ers get the most out of the program. She strives to connect the 4-H program to the ‘real world’ through betterment of the community and helping prepare youth for educational opportunities and future career possibilities, all while spreading the word about 4-H. Alison’s co-leader, T-J says, “I know no matter what it is, I can always count on Alison – no matter how small or how big. Alison truly lives and teaches youth to learn to do by doing. She gives them the tools and information on how to do things but then allows them to try, while encouraging and giving tips along the way.”   


About 4-H Ontario 

4-H Ontario is a non-profit positive youth development organization that builds youth as leaders within their communities and assets to the world. With roots in rural Ontario, today it is open to youth of all backgrounds across the province. 4-H youth ages 6 to 21 and screened, engaged volunteer leaders come together to learn about selected topics through fun hands-on activities and mentorship. There are also provincial camps, conferences, competitions, and national and international travel opportunities available to further develop skills in leadership, business, self-confidence and more. 4-H provides youth with a place they can be involved, accepted, valued and heard while developing valuable skills for leadership and life. 

For more information, please contact: 

Laura Goulding, Manager, Communications, 4-H Ontario 


About Gay Lea Foods 

Gay Lea Foods is a Canadian dairy farmer-owned co-operative known for its co-operative-inspired value and high quality, innovative and award-winning dairy and food products. 

Leading with principles that empower Canadian farmers, prioritize partnerships and support rural businesses and communities, they operate facilities in urban areas of Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, as well as in smaller, rural communities across Ontario, including Madoc, Stirling, Teeswater, Hagersville and Thornloe. 

For more information, please contact: 

Marie McNabb, Director, Gay Lea Foods