4‑H Saves Lives: The True Resilience of Two True Leaders

by Kittrina Thompson

Photo Credit: TODAY

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We love hearing those familiar and inspiring 4‑H stories that start or end with:

“I am where I am today because of 4‑H.”

“I credit the skills I learned in 4‑H for who I am today.”

“4‑H changed my life.”

They’re just about the same sentiments from every proud 4‑H’er and 4‑H alumni across the country. However, there is one rare but true statement that we hear from current and former 4‑H’ers who have gone through particularly trying circumstances: “4‑H saved my life.”

Just imagine finding yourself in a situation—life or death—that requires you to put the skills learned in 4‑H to the ultimate test. That’s what happened when two California 4‑H members and sisters found themselves lost for two days in a local California woods that is known as ‘mountain lion country.’ They were tested, and they prevailed.

Here’s the story (excerpt via NPR):

The Carrico sisters knew something about wilderness survival, having been trained through 4‑H, and may have put those skills to use after getting lost during a walk in the woods Friday afternoon in pursuit of a deer trail. Once the girls failed to return to their Benbow home, located in Northern California’s rugged region near the South Fork Eel River, a rescue operation was launched. Two nights passed while a 250-person-strong crew, including dog teams, assisted in the effort to find them, combing the steep terrain. Then by Sunday morning, tracks left by the boot-shod girls led rescuers to the sisters huddled together, safe, under a bush.

Leia (8) and Caroline (5) are the brave sisters who survived on granola bars, water droplets from the leaves, and the skills they learned in an Outdoor Adventures Project through the Miranda 4‑H Club in Humboldt County, California. The project is widely participated in, with an annual project participation count of  2,952 in the state. Lei was in her second year of the project, while younger sister Caroline was in her first year.

Yes, not only does 4‑H teach skills in agriculture, STEM and healthy living (to name a few), but life skills are at the core of what 4‑H provides to its nearly 6 million members nationwide. Life skills such as resilience, problem-solving, confidence and compassion were the skills Leia and Caroline needed and possessed to keep each other safe, hopeful and alive.


Photo Credit: TODAY

Here is how they practiced problem-solving: “It was starting to drizzle, so I knew we needed to find shelter fast… and we had my sister’s rain jacket to keep us warm… We turned it sideways, so each of us had an armhole that we stuck our arms into.” – Leia

When it came to putting compassion at work: “My sister cried the whole night so I told her to think happy thoughts of our family, and I kept watch for most of the night.” -Leia

Their resilience was apparent: “They were dehydrated, they were cold, but they were well.” -Humbolt County Sheriff William Honsal

The confidence they needed to make it home safely was proven: “I felt a little nervous — and a little afraid, but I knew dad would find us eventually.” -Leia

Through many emotions, smart thinking and quick doing, the sisters stayed firm in their fight to be found, coming out even stronger with a story to tell.

If there was ever a doubt that 4‑H grows True Leaders, the unique stories of Leia, Caroline, and every 4‑H member are a testament to the life-changing, improving and saving experiences and skills received in 4‑H programs.

If you’re ready to help provide the life skills that Leia and Carolina learned through 4‑H – resilience, problem-solving and compassion – to more 4‑H youth around the nation, consider making a donation today