Illinois 4-H Foundation presents 2014 state 4-H awards
By Leanne Lucas
September 11, 2014
  • /ACES
  • /ACES News

URBANA, Ill. - The Illinois 4-H Foundation recognized the exceptional contributions of four outstanding individuals at the ACES College Connection program held Sept. 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center in Champaign.

Three 4-H alumni received the Illinois 4-H Alumni Award:

  • Craig Bidner was a 10-year member of the Danvers Industrial Youth and the Rugged Rambler 4-H Clubs in McLean County. Today he is the owner and CEO of Nikco Sports in Chesterfield, Mo. In 2009, Craig and his wife Joy began the Gateway Gang 4-H Club in St. Louis as a way for their two children and other youth to benefit from the 4-H experience. They continue to be the club leaders today. Bidner said, “Participating in 4-H was a learning opportunity and a foundation that our family built on to succeed in life.”
  • Daniel Kelley was a 10-year member of the Linden Lead ‘Em 4-H Club in McLean County. Today Kelley is a grain farmer near Normal and recently served as the president of the GROWMARK, Inc., board of directors from 1995 to 2013. Kelley said he clearly remembers the inspiration and insight of his 4-H leader, Clarence Ropp. Upon Ropps’ retirement, Kelley volunteered to serve as an assistant leader to help Ray Ropp with the club. Twenty-three years later, Kelley stepped down. Kelley stated that he is proud to have been a part of the 86-year-old Linden Lead ‘Em 4-H Club’s legacy.
  • Philip Nelson was a 10-year member of the Miller Township 4-H Club in LaSalle County. Nelson is a fourth-generation owner and operator of the grain and livestock farm where he grew up. Nelson’s early 4-H experiences provided him with valuable leadership skills and laid the foundation for his life of service to the agriculture industry. He served as vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) from 1999 to 2003 and as president from 2003 to 2013. Nelson has used his leadership roles within the IFB to serve as a tireless advocate for 4-H.

The 2014 Friend of 4-H Award was presented to Richard Knipe, a retired University of Illinois Extension beef animal systems specialist. Knipe spent eight years as coordinator of the Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging Program and coach of the state 4-H judging team. During that time, Knipe built a volunteer coaching system that drives the development of some 2,000 youth across the state of Illinois annually. When ethical behavior in 4-H livestock shows became an issue in the late 1990s, Knipe joined forces with fellow educators to develop a series of 4-H and FFA quality assurance and ethics clinics. Knipe is the co-founder of Riverside Research’s MarketMaker.

The Illinois 4-H Foundation builds relationships to generate financial resources for the Illinois 4-H program. For more information, visit Illinois 4-H is part of the University of Illinois Extension program that is offered in concert with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, the Federal Extension Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information about 4-H in Illinois, visit