Around a year ago, a good friend of mine sat down with me to talk to me about making a change in peoples lives and starting with kids. We talked about kids camps and about my idea to start Raise Em Outdoors, but it took a good 6 months longer before I did anything. I thought about it every single day though. This last Christmas I started with my donation program, still always thinking about the camps. Finally I decided I needed to do them, I started to talk about it to friends. I was then introduced to a member with the Mule Deer Foundation. He talked to me about all of the kids programs he had been involved in and very confidently let me know, that my idea for these youth camps could become a reality. Fast forward a few months I had been introduced to another member of the MDF, Ken Hand, who offered to bring his shooting trailer down for the camp and help me plan this event. I then spent the next few months with a good friend, Maria Taylorworking out the rest of the details for the FREE youth camp.
In 3 short months we managed to put together an outdoor camp for kids age 3-17. Offering rifle shooting, archery, and fishing lessons. Hosting two days at the Big K Ranch in Elton, Oregon. Parents brought there kids to a large camp placed on the river banks of the ranch. The families were offered a free camping spot, dinner provided each night, and skill set instructions on all the outdoor sports we hoped to help these kids learn more about.
One of my main goals with Raise Em Outdoors was to also help parents get more involved with their kids outdoors. We made this camp a camp for the whole family. This wasn’t your typical drop off Summer camp. When introducing your kids to the outdoors, knowing some families were not into any hunting, fishing, or shooting themselves, we wanted them to learn along with their kids. Getting outdoors not only teaches kids patience, appreciation , hard work, and love for the wild where we began, but bringing parents and their kids together outdoors makes for memories you can’t create any where else. That they can take home and continue to do together after the camp.
We had around 100 people total at the camp with volunteers included. For two days instructors led theses kids along the river banks catching fish, learning to cast fly rods, and learning about the species that were in the river with them as they waded out to keep cool during the lessons. Their fishing guides came from as far as Montana, and from the local Project Healing Waters Crew. PHW brought out their vets to in turn teach the kids anything from casting fly rods to catching craw dads. Watching these vets and guides spend an entire day in 90 plus degree weather teaching kids and parents both all about fishing and with a smile on their face the whole time was one of my favorite parts of the camp.
They also spent time learning to shoot archery and perfecting their form and learning the skills of shooting a bow, then moving on to the air rifle station getting used to shooting a gun before moving on to .22 single shot Cricket rifles. All the while with their parents helping and observing their kids as they got those huge smiles after hitting a bullseye. Day two we had a friendly shooting competition at each station that seemed to really get everyone having fun.
All the families took a break around 3 PM to swim in the river or head further down the long river banks of the Big K Ranch to fish more before the catered dinner event. Each night we gathered together for dinner together, so families could get together and get to know each other better. While kids ran around with their new friends. Campers all camped together on one side of the camp and the volunteers on the other so that we could regroup and plan out the next days events.
At the end of camp we had a fun giveaway of prizes to the sharp shooters and the best little fisherman. Kids faces lit up as they won and everyone clapped for them. One little boy in particular who won a Genesis bow, was all smiles. Not long before the camp, his house was broken into and his bow was stolen from him. Moments like that make you feel good, after spending an entire weekend running around making sure things are running smooth and everyone is doing ok. It washed away all the stress I had on my shoulders that weekend. From hosting my first ever youth event.
I learned a lot with this event and I can’t wait to improve the camps to make the best outdoor experience for these kids in the future.
Thank you to the M.U.L.E.Y foundation for helping us with our shooting stations, to Project Healing Waters for bringing their lead fishing guide for the Umpqua River and all the vets who donated their time to volunteer to teach these kids all weekend. Thank you to all our amazing archery instructors, shooting instructors, and fishing instructors who all traveled from near and as far as Montana and Texas to come help me put on this camp for the kids. Your faith in me to put this on and come help these kids all weekend long. I know made a lasting impression on many kids and parents this last weekend. Without all of you and all the families who are wanting to get their kids into the outdoors more, we couldn't do what we do. The future of our outdoors and the future of our next generation depends on amazing people like all of you.