I knew that I was not the only one pushing for the future of our sport to have recognition at every show, and I am glad to report that some clubs and events go the extra mile – with the help of everyone involved – to show juniors that they are indeed an important factor to making our sport thrive and advance.

The Northeast Junior Handler of the Year competition is one that the Thanksgiving Classic Cluster of Springfield, Mass., is very proud of. Not only do these four clubs, Holyoke Kennel Club, Windham County Kennel Club, South Windsor Kennel Club and Springfield Kennel Club work together to put on a good show, they’re also taking an extra step forward to make sure young handlers get the recognition and the proper tools to succeed. This cluster offers a juniors clinic, called “The Handlers of Tomorrow,” that allows the kids to get some hands-on experience through the AKC Registered Handlers Program.

Morgan Campbell, the 2012 Northeast Junior Handler of the Year. Photos courtesy of Peggy Wampold.

At this particular event, the winner of the Northeast Junior Handler of the Year award, Morgan Campbell, showed her Australian Shepherd and caught the eye of finals judge Gwen DeMilta, then went on to receive a $1,000 scholarship.

John Mark Woodworth, 2nd Place, 2012 Northeast Junior Handler of the Year.

The second place winner was John Mark Woodworth handling his Great Dane, who received $500 towards a scholarship to pursue his college education.

Madeline McDougall, 3rd Place, 2012 Northeast Junior Handler of the Year.

Third place went Madeline McDougall showing her Siberian Husky. Madeline received a $300 scholarship toward her college education. 

Joshua Frenia, 4th Place, 2012 Northeast Junior Handler of the Year.

Fourth place went to Joshua Frenia and his Smooth Dachshund, who received a $200 scholarship.

The concept of regional competitions for juniors is based on the original state of California competition. There are now regional competitions conducted throughout the country, with the host club determining the eligibility requirements. These events offer scholarships as awards to provide support to juniors once they have aged out in their pursuit of a college education.

At the Northeast event, the juniors had to have won a first place in two or more Open classes in Junior Showmanship competition at AKC-licensed or member dog shows held between November 1, 2011 and November 1, 2012, and had to be at least 9 years of age and under 18 years of age at the time of each qualifying win.

As you may have guessed, there is also a Best Northwest Junior competition that will be held this weekend, on December 8, in conjunction with the Greater Clark County Kennel Club Inc. in Ridgefield, Wash. The prizes at this event are as follows:

Best Northwest Junior: $1,000 scholarship

Reserve Best Northwest Junior: $500 scholarship

Best Junior In Each Group: $100 scholarship

To have qualified for this competition, juniors must have won one or more Best Junior awards (when offered) at an AKC member or licensed club all-breed or Specialty show held in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon or Washington between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012.

More and more people are taking action to support the future of our sport, and you can too! Keep an eye out for regional events like these, and be sure to read your premium lists and spread the word for those who might have missed it!

A special thanks to Peggy Wampold for sharing her passion by providing information for this DFR, and to the juniors of the AKC Juniors Facebook Group for bringing to my attention the Best Northwest Junior competition!

P.S. Dogs Freakin’ Rule!