For immediate release (November 3, 2023) GUELPH, ON — 4-H Ontario proudly announces the recipients of the 2023 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Volunteer Leader Award, sponsored by Gay Lea Foods.

The 2023 recipients are:

  • Region 1 – Crystal Perigo of Sudbury District 4-H Association
  • Region 2 – Sheldon Shane of Leeds 4-H Association
  • Region 4 – Marieke Patton of South Simcoe 4-H Association
  • Region 5 – Sarah Shapton of Huron 4-H Association
  • Region 6 – Martha Sullivan of Chatham-Kent 4-H Association

The 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Volunteer Leader Award celebrates and recognizes volunteers who have been 4-H club leaders for five years or less and embody the 4-H pledge in their work with local youth. Nominations are accepted from across the province, with one award given in each region. As recognition, award recipients receive a custom print commissioned by 4-H Ontario, and public recognition through their home associations and in local news outlets.

“Volunteers are the heart of the 4-H organization,” says Megan Burnside-Poitras, Volunteer and Database Manager, 4-H Ontario. “These volunteers represent the best of the best – freely giving of their time, experience and leadership to help positively impact youth across the province.” This year’s recipients have each made a powerful impact on youth aged 6-21 in their respective regions by offering programming focusing on various subject matters.  They embody the 4-H motto of “Learn to Do by Doing.”

“As a supporter of leadership training and youth development, Gay Lea Foods 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. Gay Lea Foods would like to congratulate them on receiving this award and encourage them to continue to influence in their communities,” says Marie McNabb, Director, Gay Lea Foods.

These awards would not be possible without the generous support of Gay Lea Foods, a leading Canadian co-operative renowned for their community-focused values and high quality, innovative, and award-winning dairy and food products. 

Read on to learn about the 2023 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Volunteer Leader Award recipients. (Quotes directly taken from nomination forms)

Region 1 – Crystal Perigo of Sudbury District 4-H Association

2023 New Outstanding Club Leader Crystal Perigo

Crystal has been a 4-H volunteer leader since 2018 and has been an extremely active volunteer leader, running clubs such as Community Involvement, Gardening, Step Into Our World, Take a Kid Fishing, Potato Project, Volunteers at Large, Our Great Outdoors, A Walk on the Wild Side and many more for the Sudbury District Association. As one former participant says: “Having been a member in the Sudbury Clever Clovers 4-H Club since Crystal Perigo became a volunteer has been an absolute privilege … She always shows up with smile on her face and makes the members her first priority.” Another participant noted: “Crystal has shown remarkable leadership skills during business meetings and club activities. She is passionate about keeping members engaged in what we are learning with a hands-on approach.” In addition, two additional volunteer leaders in the club, Paulette and Wayne MacDonald, noted: “The Sudbury 4-H club consists of multiple projects in a year which can be challenging — especially when the youth’s ages range from 9 to 21. Crystal has the ability to inspire youth across the wide range of age groups and we know they appreciate her good sense of humour as we do ourselves.

Region 2 – Sheldon Shane of Leeds 4-H Association

2023 New Outstanding Club Leader Shane Sheldon

Sheldon Shane, of Leeds County 4-H Association, has been a volunteer leader for the past two years. He is well known for his passion in running clubs and projects, teaching and sharing his skills, and knowledge in agriculture. His experience over the past two years includes leading a Dairy and Judging club and volunteering his time in 2022 as a County Judging Coordinator and as Go for the Gold coordinator in 2023. From one youth participant: “Sheldon has been my leader in the Lombardy Dairy Club for the past two yearsFrom the first meeting of the year right up to show days he is always encouraging us to do our best. Sheldon is always there and waiting when we come out of the ring to give us a “high five” or “great work” no matter how we do in the ring.” Another youth participant states: “He has helped me a lot in my 4-H career by helping me learn how to be able to assist the younger members when at shows or club events…Sheldon has been a great mentor to many members.” And, Leeds County 4-H President Hugh Hunter says: “Sheldon sets a tremendous example for our members. His knowledge and experience with the program are tremendous assets…He is an inspiration to our members, constantly encouraging them to try new things and push them outside their comfort zone.

Region 4 – Marieke Patton of South Simcoe 4-H Association

Marieke Patton has been volunteering as a leader with the South Simcoe 4-H Association since 2021 running clubs such as Rabbit, Farmer’s Market, Gardening, Crops and Photography clubs, as well as running a Cloverbuds program. In one club, Marieke organized to take the Rabbit club and their animals to visit elderly patients at a senior’s home. As noted by a nominator: “(Marieke) is a loyal leader, as she continuously listens to her member’s concerns and thoughts, using them to improve the club for everyone.” One youth participant notes: “Marieke has always been so kind and considerate to everyone and always makes sure that people feel welcome. (She) by far goes above and beyond expectation to give everyone a fun and educational experience.” And another youth participant says: “I am excited about all the useful information she shares with us and the technologies (field crop scouting app) she is introducing us to … With each meeting I feel more accomplished in the skills I am developing. She really does teach us to ‘learn by doing.”   Trish Downey and Scott Cullen, Volunteer leaders, also noted in their nomination form:  “We as an association are grateful for Marieke’s passion, professionalism and resourcefulness as she helps new generations of 4-H youth, both rural and urban.

Region 5 – Sarah Shapton of Huron 4-H Association

2023 New Outstanding Club Leader Sarah Shapton

Sarah Shapton has been a volunteer leader in the Huron 4-H Association since 2019, and most recently became the president of the Huron 4-H Association board. During her time with 4-H, Sarah has led the South Huron Sheep club, the Fluff and Feather club and the Goat club. One of Sarah’s nominator’s shared: “(Sarah) is always striving for the best for herself, her clubs and the community as a whole. Sarah has not only started new clubs in our county, but she has also attracted new members and leaders.” One senior youth participant noted: “Sarah has a passion for our club and 4-H that cannot be ignored. Having her join the club as a leader has breathed new life into the club and made going to meetings more enjoyable as she uses her own life experiences to make up new and unique meeting ideas …” Another youth nominator shared the value that Sarah has brought to Huron County 4-H: “She never takes her role as president for granted, and still works on herself to become the best leader/president possible. She is highly respected and valued in our community and continues to add knowledge and leadership to our community.

Region 6 – Martha Sullivan of Chatham-Kent 4-H Association

2023 New Outstanding Club Leader Martha Sullivan

Martha Sullivan has been a volunteer leader with Chatham-Kent 4-H Association for the past five years. During her time with the association, Martha continued to help run the Merlin Field Crop club – which she had assisted with previously – organizing field evaluations, judging, achievement days, guest speakers and helping youth with hands-on activities. One youth participant says: “Martha is a caring and compassionate person who works hard to help others … Martha inspired me to always keep an open mind and I am honoured that I could reflect on and recommend such an amazing person.” Two siblings – who nominated Martha together — noted: “Martha’s creativity (during the pandemic lock down) kept us all engaged and entertained. One highlight was when we had a meeting with Andrew Campbell — a dairy farmer and a social media sensation. It was so fun. In addition, we had a hands-on gardening experience when we planted our own seeds and documented their progress of growing (online).” Another participant shared: “In addition to being an organized club leader, Martha is willing and able to help out with county 4-H events. She has been active at our judging competitions, year-end awards banquet and Rally Night in February.”


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

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 6–21 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:

Mary Haurilak Manager, Communications, 4-H Ontario