Who Will Carry the Torch and Give the Gift of the Outdoors

News & Tips: Who Will Carry the Torch and Give the Gift of the Outdoors...

When given four hours of what I call brain time, I get lost in a web of thoughts. Brain time is the time I spend stuck in the car driving for several hours.

outdoor mentors
Programs like Outdoor Mentors matches caring adults with a passion for the outdoors with children who want to learn about the outdoors. Photo credit: outdoormentors.org.

I recently traveled from my home in Western Pennsylvania across the state to Allentown, Pa. I was headed to the celebration of life service for my dear friend, outdoor industry journalist and great conservationist Tom Fegely, who died too soon.

As I crossed our beautiful home state chock full of outdoor opportunities, I thought about Tom. I relished sightings of white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, upland game habitat and myriad streams and rivers that boast superlative fishing. I smiled, even laughed.

I could see Tom set up among the timber close to a massive buck rub, bent low in a duck blind with his beloved retriever Shiloh, walking the rows of field brush hoping to flush a quail, or expertly casting a dry fly just upstream of a boiling eddy to coax a rainbow trout from its hiding place.

I fretted too. Fretted over the thought of hunting, fishing, the shooting sports and wildlife conservation losing yet one more of its tremendous story tellers, promoters, torch bearers, educators and mentors.

"Who will take Tom's place?" I asked out loud.

The next day, readying to address the large group of people who had come to bid Tom farewell, the answer to my question became abundantly clear.

"We are the ones who must carry the torch," I said. "But we must do more than connect with family and friends who would like to learn about God's greatest gifts and the outdoor lifestyle. We must reach beyond our core to those who, without us, have no chance of ever casting a line, seeing a deer up close or hearing a turkey gobble."

Tom was one of the first people to write about the need to reach minorities and those living in metropolitan areas. He urged us to give the gift of the outdoors to those who might not find it any other way.

He wrote about a program for inner city kids, Camp Compass Academy, 20 years ago, before most others realized the importance of reach. He also talked about connecting with women, long before the women's outdoor movement took root. He considered single moms who might not have the wherewithal to get their kids outdoors.

Tom also walked the talk. He acted as a personal mentor and encourager to thousands who are now outdoor enthusiasts.

Take up Tom's torch, won't you? If not you, then who?

Reach out. Ask a person with no other avenue into the outdoors to join you. What better way for us to remember Tom and all those who cut the path for us into the outdoors than by ensuring the future of hunting, fishing, the shooting sports and wildlife conservation by getting newcomers involved.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to bring them to an event at Bass Pro Shops. From holiday events for the kids, to adult classes, hunter education, and expert advice, a trip to a Bass Pro Shops location is easy and the atmosphere is friendly and professional.

Great Groups Offering Outreach Opportunities

Here are a few other wonderful groups with whom you may volunteer time or donate. They reach youngsters, women, wounded veterans and others who desperately need the outdoors in their lives.

Camp Compass Academy and Two Million Bullets — Allentown, Pa. http://www.campcompass.org

Camp Compass is the only outdoor industry program that does far more than just take a kid outdoors. It follows them for years in school, through life, and outdoors. These non-typical outdoor kids, at-risk inner-city youth, learn about conservation, hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities. But, after their adventures, they're required to write about their experience, incorporate math and science into their journals, and use proper English. Students also must maintain school grades, always be on time, keep commitments, show respect for others and themselves, and demonstrate morals and ethics in all they do.

Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors — Several States http://outdoormentors.org

Matching caring adults with a passion for the outdoors with children who want to learn about the outdoors ... that's what the Pass It On Outdoor Mentors program is about in a nutshell. It's formatted on the system of the Big Brothers organization. What began as an effort on the part of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to bolster the ranks of hunters and fishers in 1999 has grown to include activities in Alaska, Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Peterson's Outdoor Ministries http://petersonoutdoors.org  

Peterson Outdoor Ministries provides outdoor recreational therapy to wounded combat veterans and their families as well as youth and adults with disabilities or terminal illness. Events include a mix of hunting, fishing, shooting sports, faith-based inspirational messages by local and nationally known speakers, family-style meals, entertainment and surprise visits from outdoor celebrities. Events are held in the United States in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and in Canada.

Conservation Organizations

You may also connect with conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and others. Most have youth programs and outreach.