4-H Club raises, auctions pig to support Ethan Kunkel family
More than $4,000 collected so far to help Kunkel, who is battling leukemia
For the second year, members of the Berks County 4-H Swine Club auctioned a barrow during the Round-Up Sale at the Kutztown Fair. The pig auction raised $2,600 for the family of Kempton resident Ethan Kunkel.
“Ethan was recently diagnosed with, and is being treated for, leukemia,” Michele Brown, assistant swine club leader, explained. “He has been a very active contributor to the Berks County community and is the current Deputy Chief of the Kempton Fire Company.”
The Kathy Barry Insurance Agency purchased the barrow at the 4-H Livestock Round-Up Auction held at Kutztown Fair Aug. 19. Additional community donations have brought the total raised to $4,445 and donations are still coming in.
A barrow is a castrated male pig and is a common choice for most 4-H market hog participants. In order to sell at roundup, the barrows must have a certificate of veterinary inspection which guarantees the animal is healthy and suitable for competition and sale.
This year’s barrow, nicknamed Mikey, was raised by Zaren Kerper from Fleetwood. Kerper is a state Future Farmers of America officer and participated in 4-H since
she was 8. She graduated this spring from Oley Valley High School and now attends Kutztown University as an English/agricultural journalist major.
“They needed someone to raise it so I volunteered,” Kerper explained.
She tended Mikey for the months leading up to the auction, including watering and feeding him and making sure he was washed and ready to show at the event.
“Pigs are normally confined to pens,” Kerper said as she checked Mikey over a few days before the auction. He nudged against her side, grunting affectionately. “So we take them out into the yard and walk them so they get exercise.
“Pigs, they are definitely different, but they are really smart,” she said, scratching Mikey’s back. “They’re laid back, but they always try to nibble. They always want something to eat.”
Kerpner was part of a team effort that raised the barrow for this year’s auction. The animal was donated, as were all feed, veterinary certificates and processing fees.
“This year we have two feed companies helping, along with friends of 4-H or family friends,” Brown said. “It’s kind of a labor of love, to be honest, because this is the second year for the program.”
Brown said the idea for the auction benefit came from a similar program run by Penn State in Erie County. She said the Berks club plans to raise a barrow and auction it for charity going forward.
“There are families out there, people out there, that need a hand up but might not ask for it,” Brown said. “It’s a good way to support someone in the Berks County community that might not get help.”
4-H members vote on each year’s beneficiary. In 2016, they selected the family of Bret Hansley, Jr., who was killed in a motorcycle accident and left five young children behind. Last year’s Benefit Barrow raised more than $14,000.
This year, club members selected the Kunkle family. Ethan Kunkle was diagnosed with leukemia in May.
“They’ve been active in the Berks County community in many ways for many years,” Brown said, with the children participating in the 4-H dairy program, sports and the Grange. One daughter served as the Reading Fair Queen.
“Because they are a large family who have been so active in the program, people wanted to help,” she said.
Contributions toward this year’s Barrow Auction beneficiary will be accepted in the Berks County 4-H Office, 1238 County Welfare Road, Suite 110, Leesport, through Friday, Sept. 15.
The Kathy Barry Insurance Agency was the winning bidder at the Barrow Benefit held by the Berks County 4-H Swine Club to benefit the Ethan Kunkel family. Kathy Barry is pictured above with the Benefit Barrow pig and members of the family.
Fleetwood resident Zaren Kerper, an FFA member who graduated from Oley Valley High School, raised Mikey the Pig through efforts of the Berks County 4-H Swine Club for a Benefit Barrow auction. Other community members and businesses contributed toward costs, including feed and veterinary fees.