CLYDE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – An 18-year-old Clyde High School graduate is providing opportunities for kids with disabilities through agriculture, creating his own faith-based nonprofit called Operation: Stockshow.
The Clyde High School (CHS) ag barn was empty Monday morning, the only sounds ringing through the tin walls were that of strong West Texas winds and finches landing on the railings.
With feed, supplies and other necessities put away, it signaled the end of the livestock showing season.
However, 18-year-old Clyde graduate Caleb Powell hopes as the season begins in September, there won’t be one empty stall.
Growing up with a passion for agriculture, Powell showed steers while at CHS, staying very active in both agriculture and his local church youth group.
It wasn’t until his freshman year, when his church took a group of kids to a church camp, that he realized his calling in life was about to take an unexpected turn.
It was a camp in Brenham, Texas where Powell was partnered with another young kid with disabilities. Powell said, “I was his hands and feet for the week.”
“They (the camp) created a place where everyone was included, and that really stuck with me,” Powell explained. “At that moment, I knew it was a God thing.”
With a new-found love and passion, children with disabilities sat at the forefront of his mind.
“I knew I wanted to work with special needs in the future, I just didn’t know what or how,” pondered Powell.
The thought stirred within in him for about four years, as he searched and prayed for answers, but it wasn’t until one of his last stock shows his senior year of high school, in a pen by the show ring, where his questions found their answers.
“We had a ton of foot traffic coming in and out all day with several classes and families that had individuals with special needs in them,” Powell recalled. “Whenever they’d stop and look at our steers, you could just see something change in them.”
After graduating in 2022, Powell began the process of creating Operation: Stockshow, his faith-based nonprofit with a mission statement “to provide opportunities for the special needs community through agriculture.”
Powell called it a miracle becoming an official 501 (c)(3), saying in most circumstances, a hard “no” would be delivered within six to nine months. Within 21 days of applying, he received a stamp of approval from the State of Texas.
Using a buddy system at CHS, the high school ag students are paired with a student with a disability to teach them the basics of caring for an animal, walking them, and presenting them at a show.
“I had no idea how the spectrum worked for down syndrome or autism,” Clyde sophomore Madison Martin said. “Learning how they work and being able to interact with them was really cool for me.”
Madison had been showing her pig, Miss Sunshine, since she was in the sixth grade, and was instantly drawn to the idea of helping. She was paired with Addison Campbell, who has down syndrome, and they began working together.
Madison and Powell reiterated to KTAB/KRBC that when Addison first started, she did not want to set foot in the show arena. However, after several sessions, Addison and Madison took the show floor.
“I got to show her how to walk them in the arena and use the whip,” enthused Madison, “she did great! It was very fun, and that’s one of my core memories with her, is being able to work with her through all this.”
Powell continued, “At the last session, there were no thoughts of, ‘hey, I want you to hold my hand,’ or ‘I need you to be beside me.’ She just went in there and did her thing.”
The recent grad said it was moments like that, seeing confidence instilled in these kids, that make it well worth the effort.
“A lot of prayer has been prayed over this organization, and a lot of people have put their faith into it,” added Powell. “I’m excited to see where it’s going to go.”
With his faith at the center of it, Powell said these are good first steps in their journey to reach more kids in more school districts all across the Big Country.
Powell said his dream goal is to have a permanent barn of their own, where the kids can leave their animals and come to take care of them as they please.