ABBEVILLE, La. — The LSU Ag Center is recognizing a $100,000 scholarship fund in Vermilion Parish that honors 10-year-old Kaylee McLain, who died last month in an accident.
The sale of Pearl the pig raised $100,000 in Vermilion Parish for a scholarship fund to honor 10-year-old Kaylee McLain who died last month in an accident. Kaylee was a member of the Vermilion Parish 4-H program and was enrolled in the swine project.
The fund-raising effort came during the auction of 4-H animals recently at the Vermilion Parish 4-H Livestock Sale (Jan. 16).
“We have amazing and generous people in Vermilion Parish,” said Shannan Waits, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Vermilion Parish.
In the midst of their grief, Kaylee’s aunts set up the scholarship fund to help provide students with education in Catholic schools.
Gwen Broussard, a 4-H volunteer who helped the McLain family set up this fundraising effort, said word spread about the upcoming sale, and numerous people pledged money to buy the pig.
“When this happened, people wanted to find a tangible way to support the family,” Broussard said. “Before the pig even sold, we knew we had $38,000.”
When senior 4-H’er Mallory Meaux learned of the scholarship fund, she decided to contribute the money from the sale of one of her own pigs to that effort also. Mallory serves as president of the Vermilion 4-H Jr. Leader Club and demonstrated her commitment to community service with this generous gesture.
The pigs weren’t sold to just one individual for $100,000; numerous people placed winning bids on both pigs, then donated the animals for another round of bidding. At the auction, Pearl and Mallory’s pig were sold, then donated back for another sale 26 times, Broussard said. In total, over 100 families and businesses contributed to the final amount.
But even after auctioneer Mike Dominique struck the final gavel with a total of $96,000, the bidding wasn’t over. Waits said as her husband, Hilton, also a 4-H agent, was talking to the audience about the significance of the donations, a 4-H supporter, Danny Meaux, rose to speak. “He said, ‘We’re not going to leave it at $96,000. We’re going to put up another $4,000.’ ”
Broussard said people were taken aback. “The crowd gasped. It was so emotional. The family couldn’t believe the amount of money raised.”
During the livestock show, Waits said, Kaylee’s fellow 4-H students were wearing ribbons made by the Pointe Coupee Parish 4-H Junior Leader Club. She said the idea for that gesture came from Brandi Frey, 4-H agent in Pointe Coupee Parish, whose husband attended the LSU Ag Leadership with Allen McLain, Jr., a rice and crawfish farmer. “It was just something they did out of the kindness of their hearts.”
Joshua Duhon, a family friend, contacted donors to secure a belt buckle for the winner of the Swine Overall Champion Swine Showmanship award. The buckle was inscribed with the phrase “All Heart No Shoes” to recognize Kaylee’s enthusiasm for her 4-H swine project and her preference to go barefooted. “She never wore shoes anywhere,” Broussard said.
The award and buckle were won by Paityn Martin. The buckle was donated by the Hensgens Family and they plan to continue sponsoring the award.
Broussard said Kaylee, who died Dec. 10, was a devout, kind soul. “This was the kid who was always laughing and having fun.”
She said it was the first year that Kaylee was eligible to participate in a livestock project, and she and Pearl entered the show ring in November in a preliminary event for Vermilion Parish competitors.
“She worked with her pig every day,” Broussard said.
Pearl was shown at the parish show by a close family friend, high school student Amelia Detraz, and Pearl managed a respectable 5th place in her class.
“Amelia had helped Kaylee with her pig, so it was special that Amelia got to show Pearl,” Waits said.
Donations continue for the Kaylee Abigail McLain scholarship fund. A Venmo account has been established, Venmo@Kaylee-Abigail-McLain.Mem. Donations also can be made at any Bank of Erath branch for the Kaylee Abigail McLain Memorial Fund, or mailed to Bank of Erath, P.O. Box 308, Abbeville, La., 70510.
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