Northern California Chapter: Perfecting SAFE
By Lee Lamb, Wapiti Wire editor
Success comes easy when your program operates like a well-oiled machine. Take, for example, Northern California Chapter’s SAFE event, held every September at the Redding Gun Club.
The chapter held its first event in 2011 after RMEF launched its SAFE (Shooting Access for Everyone) Challenge Youth Program with a generous donation from MidwayUSA owners, Larry and Brenda Potterfield. Only 30 youths came out for that first event, held in June, and that’s when the chapter decided to bump it back to September when kids were back in school. It worked: in 2012, about 80 young people attended, and the event drew nearly 90 participants in 2013.
Northern California Chapter volunteer and SAFE coordinator Kevin Butler says the event attracts kids of all ages and skill levels and their families primarily from Redding and surrounding communities.
“We have kids as young as 5 who have never touched a gun or shot before, all the way up to accomplished high school trap shooters,” Butler says.
About 45 RMEF volunteers from the Northern California Chapter and beyond converge to help set-up, tear-down and staff the half-day program, which involves rotating groups of 20 to 25 kids through four stations, including trap shooting, .22 rifle shooting and archery shooting, as well as a classroom element featuring gun safety and conservation education. Volunteers help move the groups from station to station, assist at the shooting ranges, teach in the classroom, and prepare and serve a BBQ lunch.
“For safety’s sake, we try to have one volunteer for every two kids,” Butler says. “The event runs during hunting season here, but luckily we are always able to find enough folks who are willing to give up a day of hunting to help us out.”
The chapter works with local businesses to round up donations for the event—which includes everything from propane and hamburger buns to shotgun shells and bows. So far they have been successful in getting the event fully underwritten every year, meaning the kids get to attend and shoot for free. An annual generous donation of goods from Sportsman’s Warehouse, Sierra Pacific Industries Foundation and Girls with Guns helps support the general and gun raffles, held at the end of the event. Every kid gets one ticket for each raffle, and everyone walks away a winner. General raffle items include hats, t-shirts, elk calls, ear muffs and other hunting-related items. Last year, the chapter gave away four Ruger 10/22s and a Savage 17 HMR in the gun raffle.
The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Once the formal event is over, the youths are invited to stay and trap shoot at the gun range free of charge for as long as they’d like.
Butler says the SAFE event is so popular that the chapter has been asked to put it on two or three times a year. The chapter advertises the event at its big game banquet every February, and registrations start rolling in as soon as they’ve booked the date with the gun club. He adds that some of the parents have become RMEF members and even attended the Redding banquet.
But Butler says the real icing on the cake for the volunteers is watching the kids enjoy shooting at the event, then go on to shoot trap or .22s at the gun range, take a hunter safety class, or take up hunting.
“There are twin sisters who have attended the program all three years who are now turkey and waterfowl hunters,” he says. “It’s cool to see the kids grow up and continue to stick with it.”