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Special needs cattle show at Dixie Classic Fair spurs friendship

Author: Kristy


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Friendships flourish through Dixie Classic Fair’s 4-H Special Needs class and Beef Cattle Show.

North Davidson High School student Joseph Groce first met mentee Emily Thomason six years ago through the class.

“I helped with that one year and we’ve just been stuck together ever since,” Groce said.

Through the program, 22-year-old Thomason, who has been diagnosed with autism, has shown in 12 shows and is growing socially; her success is accredited to the growing friendship with Groce and nurturing responsibility in the program.

“Cattle can sense that, they can sense my feelings when I’m holding on to them and it helps her (Thomason) come out of her shell,” Groce said.

Last year Groce escorted Thomason to her prom at Carter High School.

Thomason is now a part of Carter High’s alumni association and is enrolled in Lindley College two nights a week.

Emily’s mother, Marguerite Hutchinson-Rhodes said for anyone with special needs, hands-on activities are imperative and cattle showing was something new and different to involve Emily to the 4-H program.

“I think that having low communication skills has kind of put a stamp on how smart she is and that is a misconception,” Hutchinson-Rhodes said. “For students with autism and other developmental disabilities they need to be hands on and Joseph has afforded her the ability to learn how to show cows.”

Groce and Thomason will be showing cattle again together next week at the North Carolina State Fair.

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