It takes someone humble and kind to make wishes come true. When that someone is 13-year-old Jonathon Werley, sharing his good fortune just comes naturally.
Jonathon, the son of Travis and Lisa Werley of Ontelaunee Township, is an eighth-grade student at Schuylkill Valley Middle School and a member of the Berks County 4-H Dairy Beef Club. For his commitment to 4-H, Jonathon raises dairy steer and shows them at local fairs during the summer.
In 2017, he was named the Reading Fair and Kutztown Fair Dairy Beef Champion. He was also recognized as Reserve Champion Fitter at the Reading Fair and Reserve Champion Showman at the Kutztown Fair. But it’s what he does with his success after the fair that really matters.
On Oct. 26, Jonathon and his family traveled to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Lancaster to present a check for $1,300 to the organization. The money was raised through the sale of his dairy steer. 4-H members are not required to donate any of their sale proceeds, but Jonathon embraces the opportunity to give back to the community. Last year he donated $1,000 from his sale to the American Cancer Society.
“Jonathon is a remarkable young man,” said Ben Lee, regional director of Make-A-Wish. “To give his money, attention and time to drive all the way down to Lancaster to see us and, through his donation, say ‘this gift is a part of me and I am trusting you to use it to the best of your ability’ is truly special.”
According to Lee, last year the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped local critically ill children 331 times and expects to help 350 times during this coming year. In an ongoing partnership, Jonathon and his family will participate in Make-A-Wish’s annual Mother’s Day Truck Convoy in May, 2018.
Being a dedicated member of 4-H, while also pursuing academic success and extracurricular activities, is a full-time labor of love for Jonathon. Over the course of a year, he purchases an animal, usually a brown swiss cow because of its kind and gentle nature, feeds, trains and cares for it, and maintains detailed record-keeping in an extensive project book. After soliciting sponsorships from local businesses by writing letters, marketing his steer and making personal follow-up visits, Jonathon sells his animal at the annual Berks County 4-H Round-Up in late August. Besides the monetary value of his experience, Jonathon credits 4-H for much more.
“4-H helps its members learn a lot about responsibility,” he said. “You have to be dedicated to getting up for morning and evening feedings, providing clean water and making sure the animals have enough space. The club also helps teach leadership because the teen leaders help new members learn how to manage, clip and walk their animals.”
Jonathon also cites the sense of cooperation that develops through 4-H as farm families work together to help each other during fair season.
His former 4-H leader, Suzanne Treichler, credits Jonathon with being an intelligent young man who puts others before himself.
“This very caring 4-H member raises top-notch and grading animals, and garners many awards for his efforts,” Treichler said. “However, his ability to give back to his community is what puts the sparkle in his eyes and the gladness in his heart. Jonathan is a very conscientious 4-H member whom others look up to and emulate, for he succeeds in all he sets his mind, and goals, to accomplish.”
This year his goal was to help children less fortunate than himself through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “I am grateful that I can walk outside and play with my friends, but a lot of kids who are sick can’t do that. They sit in their hospital beds and can’t go outside,” Jonathon said. “Make-A-Wish allows even critically ill kids to feel like a kid again, like someone who can do anything.”
Margo Sechler, an Executive Vice President at Bell and Evans Poultry, a major sponsor of Berks County 4-H, feels Jonathon is an important part of a new generation growing up in agriculture.
“I have had the opportunity to get to know Jonathon over the past few years, as I have become more involved as a sponsor/buyer to local 4-H club events,” Sechler said. “I have so much admiration for Jonathon and his work ethic, as well as his heart of kindness in using the proceeds of his 4-H projects to help others in need. He is certainly a great example for his peers.”
Raising their child to be a kind and caring human being is part of a larger mission for the Werleys.
“We believe, firmly, in raising a son to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world in great need,” said Lisa Werley.
Through his thoughtfulness, Jonathon is helping to meet those needs, one child at a time.