4-H Event Showcases Positives of Kids and Shooting Sports
In these politically charged times, young people come together to do something that's a way of life for many Nebraskans, but under great scrutiny across the country.
The issue of kids and guns may fuel intense debate elsewhere, but the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational may tell a different story.
Organizers are taking aim at the next generation of leaders, through the power of shooting sports.
Makaylie Coble of Missouri said the appeal is simple.
"Just being able to control when you pull that trigger, knowing you're going to hit what you aim for," she explained.
Organizers like Gerry Snapp say what kids are doing on the shooting range can be overshadowed, in states with tough new gun laws.
Snapp is on the national committee for this event. He said, "It's more difficult in some states with the political climate and idea of what they think about young people and guns, certainly makes it more difficult."
So they're pleased to see this national 4-H event grow, with 550 kids from 35 states, including some where hunting may not be a way of life like it is in Nebraska.
"We're real excited to see New Jersey here particularly. I know it's difficult for them," Snapp said.
Folks visiting the Heartland Public Shooting Park near Grand Island are proud of this lifestyle, making sacrifices, as they put in hundreds of hours.
Snapp said, "It's a big time commitment and a large commitment from parents to drive them to wherever they're going, foot the bill financially, because ammunition isn't cheap, arrows aren't cheap, takes parent support."
But they say the gun and bow are just tools.
"Really the project we're working with are the youth," said Nebraska 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinate Steve Pritchard.
Snapp, of Missouri, echoed that sentiment. He said, "The skills that make you a better shooter, learn to focus and concentrate, that translates directly to school and the classroom."
Pritchard said that includes things like "leadership, being ethical, being safe, courteous."
Kids like Makaylie Coble of Missouri say they learn respect and responsibility, and safety, with what they say is a family friendly sport.
"It's awesome, meet all sorts of people, definitely a variety," she said.
Pritchard said, "It's a down home family week."
Kids and 4-H leaders say they feel appreciated in central Nebraska, which isn't always the case when they go to a competition.
Those in the tourism industry says the kids get high marks for being well mannered during their week-long stay, based on feedback from restaurants and retailers.