Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 5



Hope from Hayden
by Caleb Jones |


shooting baskets, not the pain he no doubt felt.
These days he's learning to get around on crutches after having one leg amputated. When he fell for
the first time, he didn't give up. Instead he worked
harder. He can't play baseball - yet - but is happy
to keep score for his teammates.
Here is what his mom, Jen, had to say about
Hayden's "faith over fear:"
"I am shocked at how this kid handles any obstacle thrown at him. I've never been more proud to be

his mom. The therapist asked him to walk 10 feet
and he walked 200."
We all know someone like Hayden, who despite
their tender years can unite a community. Across
central Missouri, support was strong on the day
doctors removed Hayden's leg. Gov. Mike Parson's
staff wore blue - Hayden's favorite color - as did
students at Fatima and Blair Oaks high schools,
normally rivals. Cards poured in by the hundreds,
many with photos of groups holding "Hope for
Hayden" signs. Loose Creek welcomed him
home with a sea of blue.
That's just what rural people do when
something bad happens to good people. We
do it because it's the right thing to do. And
in extending a helping hand, we realize good
things can come from bad things, like the
hope those who know Hayden receive from
his struggle.
Around the state, I see electric cooperatives reaching out to those in their communities who need a helping hand. Some do
it through their Operation Round Up programs. Others are more subtle in their support, opening wallets and volunteering at
fundraisers for a sick child or a family that
has lost their home.
However they do it, our electric co-ops
know that being part of a rural community
means more than just keeping the lights on.
We are there to help our co-op family.
Sadly, tragedy is always going to be part
of our earthly existence. It's good to know
though that so too is hope, and the comfort
that comes from being part of a community
that cares. You can learn more about this
remarkable young man at www.facebook.

ecently I returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. along with about 100 of Misouri's
electric cooperative leaders to meet with our
legislators. Our nation's capital is a beautiful place to visit in the spring. But I have to say I
was glad to return home. I just don't get that sense
of community in Washington, D.C. that is always
present in Missouri.
Case in point: On May 8, with the end
of the legislative session just a week away,
I witnessed something unprecedented in
Missouri politics. Both chambers shut
down for an hour and its members crossed
the street from the Capitol to show their
support for a 9-year-old boy from Loose
Creek named Hayden Backes. I've followed
Missouri politics for most of my life, and
what they did is unprecedented, with legislators from both parties coming together
when time and tempers usually are short.
Hayden's father, Dusty, was my chief
of staff when I was a state representative.
He is a member of Three Rivers Electric
Cooperative and one of the most respected
and beloved workers at the Capitol, with
an ever-present smile that belies the tremendous sadness he must feel. In October
2012, Dusty and his wife, Jen, saw their
lives turned upside down when Hayden
was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis.
Like so many others around the state,
their role as parents quickly expanded into
one of caregiver. As I followed their story
through a Facebook page titled "Hope for
Hayden," I learned the reason Dusty can
still smile through his tears.
Hayden, like a lot of kids fighting a host
of dreaded diseases, has truly been an
inspiration. When he awoke from the first
of many surgeries, his first thought was Hayden Backes and his father, Dusty, right, offer inspiration for me and many others.

Jones is the executive vice president and
CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric


Archery in schools provides fun and focus
by Tricia Burkhardt |


akota Ragsdale is proof that anyone can
participate in archery. A junior at Miller
High School, he wasn't supposed to live
past a few months old. He has congenital heart defects and he had to use a feeding tube
for much of his life due to complications from fetal
alcohol syndrome.
Health issues weren't going to get in the way of
Dakota learning how to bow hunt. He loves being
outdoors and was featured turkey hunting on "The
Twin Factor," an outdoor hunting show. In order to
fulfill his dream, his adopted mother, Carrie, says
he was determined to participate in the archery
program that just started at his high school this
year. Plus, this was a non-contact sport in which he
could take part.
"He always arrives early to practice, ready to
start," says Allen Tennis, Dakota's coach. Through
lots of practice, grit and hard work, Dakota received
the Most Improved Archer award and a school letter at the recent school sports banquet. At his first
tournament he shot 118. At the last tournament of
the season, he shot his personal best of 228.
Even though this was Miller High School's first
year in the Missouri National Archery in the Schools

Program (MoNASP), the team qualified for the state says Carrie after watching him perform in archery
tournament in Branson March 22-24. MoNASP is tournaments. She really likes archery because
an affiliate of NASP, which aims at improving edu- Dakota gets to be involved in a sport that includes
cational performance among students in grades everyone, regardless of athletic ability or size. When
4-12. The archery program helps them learn focus, competing, students of all walks of life are together
self-control, discipline, patience and the life lessons on the line with their peers.
Statistics show school archery prorequired to be successful in the classgrams improve participants' attenroom and in life through the critical
dance, increase their confidence,
thinking skills acquired.
improve behavior, increase physical
At the 2019 MoNASP State Tournaactivity and get them outside.
ment, the second largest state archery
Dakota says that archery has helped
tournament in the nation, there were
him make new friends. He thinks more
3,287 competitors for the bullseye
students should give it a try. He can't
and 3-D tournaments with more than
wait for the next season to start.
14,500 spectators. It is sponsored and
The Missouri Conservation Heritage
coordinated by the Missouri DepartFoundation would like to graciously
ment of Conservation and the Missouri
thank Missouri's Electric Cooperatives
Conservation Heritage Foundation. In
for sponsoring the 2019 MoNASP State
the past, several student archers and
Tournament. Their dedication to the
teams from Missouri have won the
Tricia Burkhardt
youth in this state is making long-term
national and world championships.
impacts that are life changing for the
This sport positively affects students
in many ways by giving them purpose and hope. children in Missouri.
Carrie says that after starting archery, Dakota's
Burkhardt is the director of development and
focus has improved, he is more dedicated, and he is
social media for the Missouri Conservation Heritage
better able to control his anxiety.
"To me, it looks like he doesn't have a disability," Foundation.


Rural Missouri - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2019

Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 7
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 8
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Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover4