The words steer and St. Jude are probably not used in the same sentence often, but for one California FFA member, it only made sense to take her FFA project to the next level and give back to the leading children’s hospital pioneering research and treatments for kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“In this age, people are so self-centered and always looking out for only themselves,” said Sara Parker, a senior and member of Calaveras FFA. “I personally find more joy in helping someone in need than helping myself, and this is the best way for me to give joy to someone that needs some good news in their life.”
This year Parker decided to take half the proceeds she raises from selling her prized steer “Sunshine” at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Calaveras County Fair and donate it to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She’s even set up a GoFundMe to help support her cause.
Parker, who grew up on a 275-acre ranch located in Valley Springs, California, has been surrounded by animals since the age of 2. Dodasa Ranch has been home to ducks, geese, goats, chickens, cattle, horses, llama, buffalo, and even an emu named E. Whether it was bottle feeding goats or helping pull calves, giving vaccines or caring for sick or wounded baby animals in her bathroom, Parker said animals have pretty much been her entire life from a baby till now.
So why Sunshine the steer?
“Steers, well I am a girl that loves a good challenge and I knew steers would be just that,” Parker said. “I have a huge spot in my heart for animals, but horses and cattle, they ought to be my favorites!”
Parker also has a big spot in her heart for giving and gives credit to her grandfather, aka “Papa Ted,” for passing that trait down.
“He is always giving! He loves to cook, whether it’s his homemade salami, his killer salsa, his famous habanero apricot jelly, or whatever else he’s cooked up (pun intended),” Parker said. “He is always giving away everything he is making because it makes everyone he gives it to so happy.”
In fact, it was Papa Ted who inspired Parker to donate to St. Jude.
It was two years ago when Parker and her parents were headed to dinner with her grandparents. When they picked up Papa Ted, he got in the car on the phone with the donation hotline for St. Jude.
“When he got off the phone he told me, ‘Sara, when you are fortunate someday, make sure you always give back to those who need it. St. Jude is an amazing organization that always needs all the help they can get,’” Parker said
The other half of the money Parker is keeping from Sunshine’s sale will go to her college fund. Just accepted to University of Nevada Reno where she plans to study animal science and business, Parker was also recruited to attend UNR by the rodeo coach.
“I am so eager and excited to pursue my sport and passion of rodeo,” Parker said.
After college Parker would like to start her own ranch of breeding cattle and performance horses, but says, who knows, maybe someday she will be competing in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
For now, Parker is focused on ending her senior year of high school on a high note.
“This being my last year of showing I wanted to make an impact. I want to leave a legacy for someone else with a bigger heart than me to beat — a standard for someone to break and raise even more than me for an organization they support,” Parker said. “I look forward to seeing the next generation that takes this stand to better our society in such a positive way as well as finding joy in helping others.”
If you are interested in contributing to Parker’s St. Jude donation, please visit her GoFundMe page. She has set a $10,000 goal. And if you’re near, stop by and meet Parker and Sunshine at the Calaveras County Fair May 17 to 20.