The Positive Impact of Youth Field Days

By Tagge Forrest, Youth Field Day Coordinator

Taking aim with archery equipment at the Youth Field Day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Derek Stoner.

During the course of conducting a Youth Field Day, in the midst of hurry, it can be easy to get caught up in the hassle of details and miss the bigger picture. Things that might go rougher than expected, thoughts of improvements that can be made next time, and just the stress of the non-stop group-to-group action might cloud our view of the overall mission. It is sometimes necessary, and certainly good, to be reminded.

An older lady with short gray hair, wearing outdoorsy garb and walking slowly with a cane, spent a good bit of the field day morning sitting in a folding chair. While reading a book, she waited for the youngster she accompanied to come down from the upper reaches of the property where the Pennsylvania Game Commission and muzzleloader events were located. She informed me that she was not too big on hunting and “that sort of thing”, but she knew that the interest possessed by the boy who was with her that day would draw him eventually to using firearms, so she wanted to make sure that at least he learned the safe way to do it.

I invited her to sit at a more level location on the back porch of the club, but she told me that she preferred to be on the hill under the shade of a big tree. A bit later in the day, I saw that this lady had eventually moved to a bench on the back porch, and was watching the goings-on at the trap shooting event. In a moment of hurry, briskly walking by on my way to another station, this lady stopped me. “Hey. Come over here. I want to tell you something”, she said. I stopped and knelt down beside her. She jabbed her finger toward the trap range where five kids were lined up, taking their usual, wishful shots at airborne clay birds.

Hitting a simple clay target out of the air can be a life-changing experience.
Photo by Derek Stoner.

“Do you see that boy standing over there in the yellow jacket?”, she asked firmly. “Yes.”, I replied. She began to tell me, “That young man has not succeeded at anything in his life.” She paused for a moment as the tears that had welled up in her eyes started trailing down her face. She then continued, “He just broke two of those clay birds.”

As she fought back more tears she went on through quivering lips, “I am his mentor at school and know him very well. You have no idea how much that will mean to him, but I do. That will mean everything to him. And I want you to know the impact you are having by doing this today.” The openness, sincerity, and emotion of this brief exchange, in the middle of a very busy, whirlwind day, hit me hard. I could not help but to sympathize with this very human sentiment and it helped me to realize the depth to which we may be affecting people.

This is only one story that we know. Most likely, there are many more that we just have not been given the privilege to hear.

Each summer, more than two dozen Youth Field Days are held across the state. Sportsmen’s clubs and conservation groups host these events, harnessing the power of hundreds of volunteers who provide instruction on outdoor activities to several thousand youngsters. The Pennsylvania Game Commission supports these events and thanks all of those who play an integral role in building the next generation of conservationists through Youth Field Day experiences.

To view the list of upcoming Youth Field Days in Pennsylvania, click below:

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