At 6 a.m. the camp starts to come to life. The adult instructors move quietly and deliberately toward the lodge where coffee is sure to be found. Campers roll out of their beds and shuffle to the showers before the call to breakfast.
Take a casual glance at the morning routine at Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp and you would think it is no different than the hundreds of other summer camps operating throughout the United States. Traditional camp activities abound; leather crafts, swimming, nature hikes, and basketball.
The illusion of the ordinary is shattered sometime around 9 a.m. when the sound of gunfire begins to echo through the valley. Nearly 200 young people from Ohio and a few surrounding states take to the numerous ranges to learn safe and effective use of pistols, rifles, shotguns and the quieter bows and arrows.
Left-wing hysteria aside, these 4H Shooting Sports youth are some of the most mature and responsible young people you would ever want to meet. Photo Credit: Paul Markel
Participants in the Shooting Education Camp are growing up not simply with guns in their homes, they are fully immersed in the firearms culture and they learn to excel at the various shooting sports. These fortunate teens spend an entire week under the professional tutelage of volunteer adult mentors. They talk about shells and gauges, caliber and actions, arrows and fletching, but the 4-H Shooting Education Camp is not just about guns and targets, it is about youth development.
Were you to acquiesce to left-wing hysteria you might believe that these teens would grow into dangerous sociopaths. Through this article I would like to present solid evidence to the contrary.
The 4-H Shooting Education Camp in Ohio has been ongoing for 17 years and the young people who took part in the first few camps are all grown up, graduated from college, many are married and most all are well into their careers.
For this piece we took the time to catch up with several young adults who are 4-H Shooting Sports alumnus, one of whom was even at the very first camp held in 1998. We posed the question to them: How did the 4H Shooting Sports program benefit you as you transitioned from youth to adulthood?
Here is what they had to say:
“4-H Shooting Sports has not only taught me about responsibility - a great life skill - but also caused me to meet many great people. I learned solid communication skills from meeting and socializing with these people which I believe has helped me excel in college and now my career.” - Benjamin Harris, 24, Engineer
“I am the person I am today because of the life skills that I learned through 4-H Shooting Sports. I have learned to become a responsible, hardworking and confident young lady which has allowed me to succeed in starting my own business. The people that I have met along the way have inspired me to branch out and try new things, reach for my dreams and enjoy life to the fullest. They are not only my friends but my family.” - Stacy Moore, 27, Owner of Swift Manufacturing
“4-H Shooting Sports taught me many important traits they have helped me in my life. I learned about persevering through adversity and dealing with failure. I learned about the importance of dedication to a craft. I also learned how a caring adult can interact with children in a positive way.” - Scott Elliott, 27, Scholastic Sports Supervisor
“My transition from youth to adulthood was immeasurably influenced by my involvement in the 4-H Shooting Sports program. No other program I could find in my community could come close to giving me the opportunities I had for close mentorship with adult volunteers, the chance to take on leadership roles and develop public speaking skills. I learned persistence, hard work, problem solving, patience, determination, concentration, mental toughness… and the courage to confront problems head on instead of giving up. I first saw the benefits of that in college and they have been following me ever since.” - Meredith Briski, 32, Human Resources Manager
It was not all that difficult to catch up with some 4-H Shooting Sport alumnus. The annual Shooting Education Camp is not just an event; it is a kind of family reunion. The dedication of the young people now grown and the older volunteers would be the envy of any Fortune 500 company.
All of the young adults who were gracious enough to provide insight into their Shooting Sports experience were at the 2014 Senior Shooting Education Camp volunteering as instructors and mentors. They have come full circle from pupil to teacher.
Many adult mentors, such as Fred Sherman seen here coaching a shooter, have remained faithful to the Shooting Sports program despite the fact their kids long ago "aged out" of 4H. Photo Credit: Paul Markel
Many of the adult volunteer instructors who initially got involved with the program over 15 years ago to get their kids interested are still active in the program despite the fact that their own kids have long since outgrown it.
From boys and girls to men and women, these 4-H Shooting Sports alumni grew up with guns in their hands and fulfilled the goal of the program by becoming productive and responsible citizens. Sorry, mainstream media: There is not one sociopath among them.
Taking an honest assessment of the state of the union, we could use a million more young people just like these.
If you would like to support the 4-H Shooting Education Camp you can do so directly through the Midway USA foundation. Simply follow the link and make a donation: Support 4-H Shooting Sports.
For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the US Military and Law Enforcement world have to offer. Visit www.StudentoftheGun.com
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