A good friend is irreplaceable, whether they’re a wet-nosed, lovable pig or a young 4-H or FFA member with a warm smile.
That was at least part of the message of the times that three Adair County youth got together this summer with three Special Olympics of Iowa athletes. Their relationships through that time period blossomed and it culminated Saturday night.
Saturday night at the Iowa State Fair, the very first Bacon Buddies swine show was held. Earlier this summer, three Special Olympic athletes came to the Greenfield area where Reagan Weinheimer and Tucker Rohrig, both area youth heavily involved in showing pigs, were able to give them what was probably their first up close look at a pig.
Iowa Public Television was on site one of those days, chronicling the impact Rohrig and Weinheimer were making on these young special needs athletes. IPTV later was able to use that footage in a feature they posted on social media and were going to use this week during Iowa State Fair coverage on television.
Rohrig, his sister, Taylor, and Weinheimer, all became buddies for Special Olympics athletes in the Bacon Buddies show. Weinheimer’s buddy was named Joy, Tucker’s was Ian.
“I honestly didn’t expect how cool it was going to be. We taught them what we feed the pigs, how to water the pigs, wash the pigs and mostly how we walk the pig,” Reagan said in a phone interview Sunday with the Free Press. “And, that’s what they got to do at the state fair.”
Much like Weinheimer, Rohrig looks back now and says he didn’t have any idea how far his time with Ian would go, let alone to a show at the state fair.
“I was glad I got to teach some kids with disabilities how to show pigs and give them a chance to show. Once I got there and met my buddy, Ian, he was kind of shy at first, but I got to know him and found out that he really likes pigs,” Rohrig said. “He enjoyed getting to know the pig in the pen a lot. We got him in the pen with the pig, he could brush him off, and he really liked that a lot.”
Rohrig and Weinheimer each have extensive experience of exhibiting at the state fair, but as Rohrig puts it, this show had a very unique feel to it, in a very good way.
“The atmosphere, everybody was happy,” Rohrig said. “It was really joyful and it was packed.”
John Kliesel, President and CEO of Special Olympics of Iowa, on IPTV’s coverage of the event, stated that the Bacon Buddies program was much more than just an event, it was about the relationships that were formed.
“It’s the fun and camaraderie that you get out here today showing the pig, washing the pig, or you might get into a water fight,” Kliesel said. “It’s the whole excitement and anticipation of going to the state fair.”
Rohrig’s plans are that his experience of Bacon Buddies wouldn’t stop at the state fair. He hopes to bring such an event to Adair County to broaden opportunities for all.
“I learned that kids who are in Special Olympics really aren’t that much different than myself, Reagan or anybody else. It’s all about inclusion,” Rohrig said. “I really wish we could get that in our county. [I’m going to work toward that] — that’s the goal.”