Clays for KidsSep 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Don Knaus
Sporting clays is a unique way to shoot clay pigeons. Some shotgunning wags have described the sport as “golf with a shotgun” because a course can present from ten to fifteen different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain. Unlike trap, where the clay target flies from the same spot, sporting clays mimics the random flights and runs of live game. The course offers a mind-numbing number of flights full of differing arcs, curves, and courses. Many shooters chuckle at a miss. The response might be, “Next time I’m at this station, I’ll be ready.” Except, what had been a clay pigeon imitating a high quartering pheasant suddenly becomes a ground-bounding bunny.
Sounds like a blast, right? So, mark your calendar to participate in the fifth annual Clays for Kids fundraiser on September 24 at Thunder Ridge Sporting Clays and Game Farm, 619 Leon Brown Road in Middlebury Center. This fun and challenging event is designed to send dollars to programs that help combat the drug use, addiction, and poverty our local kids can experience. Clays for Kids is a great way to get outdoors, test your aim, and help a variety of youth-oriented organizations, with proceeds going to local non-profit organizations pledging to help nurture young people and to help shape their futures in positive ways.
So how did Clays for Kids get its start here? Several years ago, local citizens and a few public officials attended the beginnings of an initiative to get young people off drugs. A family who had faced the devastating loss of a son to a drug overdose wanted to do something to help keep other young people from the same fate. Pam and (the late) Gary Jenkins founded Recovery Revolution as a memorial to their son, Cody. Tioga County Commissioner Mark Hamilton had attended the meeting and wanted to help in some way. As he was walking out, Mark recalls racking his brain for a way to help. He had heard of the successful Clays for Kids program in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. He mentioned the program to Crystal Smith, then Mansfield’s borough manager. Her enthusiastic reply: “Let’s do it.” And the Tioga County Clays for Kids program was born; the first recipient of proceeds was Recovery Revolution.
That first event didn’t just happen, though—there was a lot of work involved. Organizers initially turned to the Mill Cove board of directors for help. Then others of a similar mindset—that is, helping steer kids away from drug use—stepped up as organizers began talking about their ideas and proposals. The next hurdle was to find a site for the proposed shoot. An agenda, additional activities, food, raffle items, advertising, and more had to be planned and manned. Organizers ultimately approached Thunder Ridge owners Bill and Irene Appel, who offered their facility at a discounted rate. Their sole charge would be for the thousands of clay targets and thousands of rounds of ammo to be used by the shooters.
The most recent event in 2021 raised more than $25,000 for the YMCA in Mansfield and the Mill Cove Environmental Center outside of Mansfield. This year, funds are earmarked for three groups: This Is My Quest, providing conservation education and outdoor programs for youth; Grandsavers are Lifesavers, supporting grandparents raising their grandchildren; and the Valley Youth Initiative, promoting the physical, emotional, and social well-being of Cowanesque Valley youth. Members of Valley Youth Initiative had heard that drugs were being sold at a decaying band shell, got permission to raze the structure, and raised funds to build a basketball court on site. They have locations where kids can find shoes and clothing and also operate a summer food program.
If you enjoy swinging a shotgun at speeding clay pigeons, sign up to shoot at Clays for Kids. Shoot leaders say they could use more adult participants. Shooters—just bring your scatter gun. Thunder Ridge supplies the clays and the shot shells. Your entry fee covers a barbeque lunch prepared by Family Traditions Catering under the watchful eye of chef Penny Whipple. If you simply want to enjoy the day and add your support, you are welcome to come and watch the shots, enjoy the camaraderie, wolf down a fine lunch, or volunteer. Once on site, be sure to purchase a raffle ticket, and plan to stick around for the auction. Local folks and businesses have donated an assortment of cool stuff for both.
Since the shoot is for the kids, this year the organizers decided to have kids try the course after lunch. Each young shooter will have a mentor for teaching and for safety’s sake. Rose Moore, owner and operator of Moore’s Sports Center in Wellsboro, has helped in the past and has donated crossbows for the auction/raffle. This year she is lining up a corps of mentors. Since the youth shoot is new, Rose says she really needs more kids. If you would be willing to teach a child, or, if you’re a kid who wants to learn and participate in shooting clays, call Rose at (570) 439-8024.
Over five years, a number of individuals and businesses have helped make it a success, but the backbone of the event is Mark Hamilton. This year’s co-chair is Gary Wilson; Jess Sandstrom is secretary. Contact any of the three to enter. Gary is at (570) 337-8699; Mark’s phone is (570) 772-1299; or jingle Jess at (570) 404-4529. Information and entry forms can be picked up at local sporting goods stores or found online at claysforkidstiogacounty.com. Contact Thunder Ridge at (570) 376-2414 or at thunderridgesporting.com.
As the shoot leaders say, “The best defense is a good offense,” so let’s all help the kids in our communities raise a strong offense against drug abuse.