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.



If we want our grandkids and great grandkids to be fishing, hunting, shooting, etc. we better diversify and reach beyond our ranks. Camp Compass and Two Million Bullets should be morphed into a national curriculum that every outdoor organization uses for it's youth model. They're not about a youth fishing day or shooting day, they're about following kids for years, though their formative years. Reaching out is as easy as signing up to donate $1 or $5 -- or even giving $1, $5 or $10 a month through Camp Compasses monthly automated donation program.

The Midway Foundation is doing a tremendous amount of work in this area as well donating substantial amounts of money to high school and collegiate shooting teams as well as working with all of the conservation organizations to set up programs specifically for those organizations to have youth programs. http://www.midwayusafoundation.org/ I am a big fan of the work that Camp Compass is doing.

Well put LLD. Out here in Wyoming we have a faith-based group known as Polestar Outdoors that gets young people outdoors hunting and fishing. Tom's legacy, I believe, has blossomed across the country; maybe not as fast as we want it to, but increasing nonetheless.

Polestar Outdoors is an amazing program. Ron Vining and his team do a great job. The folks at Peterson's Outdoor Ministry also do an incredible job. I have personally benefitted from the work they do and have had the privilege of working along side them. And Camp Compass? John does a great job reaching out to kids, many of whom society would rather forget. Great job!

all, I'll add this to the below mentioned comment shared in FB this morning I started 2MillionBullets.Org so we could begin to unite under one symbol with maintaining our identities. I'm hoping some day that all youth orgs can manifest under this common symbol and truly become great for our youth " I am humbled by the support and belief in my vision for our heritage.  at times it seems like a fight that our youth can't win then we get spark and the talk starts again---it those sparks that will morph into flames!  let's just keep being honest with ourselves, keep doors open and continue to know that we as kids became who we are because of our love of the outdoors-- I can't imagine what the world would be like without people like US!  I'm in it for the long run! have a great Sunday"---john

Great point...we all have to carry the torch! In addition to those great organizations you mentioned, many state Departments of Wildlife and Fisheries are often great resources for programs that get kids outdoors and interested in hunting, conservation, and simple appreciation of hte outdoors.

What a great and powerful message. Thanks so much for writing this critically important piece. I see a few programs I'm familiar with, especially Camp Compass. I have added this blog to my favorites and look forward to more poignant messages focused on the many layers of our outdoor heritage. I'm looking forward to reading much more on this page!

Great article LLD! I just participated in an event where the 4H brought in kids that had never hunted before and we took them on a squirrel hunt. Every one of the kids really got into it and we recruited a pile of new hunters who see the value of the sport and lifestyle. Bringing kids into the outdoor life is the most important job we have as parent and outdoors people. Thanks for this article!

Excellent and noble work, the gift of nature and needed conservation, all reflected comprehensively in your article, who will carry the torch...As you said , at the celebration of Tom's life, the epiphany struck, we are all responsible...and the outreach efforts and groups you described are a beginning of a grass roots "campaign"to not only spread the word, but to all in our own way to take our individual gifts to the table and this site is a critical hub for people to educate themselves and ask the question, what can i do to contribute to the effort...There are a few areas that I have a special interest in...First and for most, as a photographer, I spend time in grade schools, sharing photographs of wildlife...creating ebooks (bird songs and all!) and expelling migration by species, colors, behavior etc and the kids love that...I also spend much time talking with the commercial fishing industry about the intrusion of the government, that is responsible for bankrupting scores of family fishing crews...There is so much here and we all need to spread the word through social media etc...I would love to volunteer in whatever way I can ...Congratulations on your "call to arms"....jimmy

Excellent piece, LLD. Everyone needs the outdoors in their lives! We must continue to carry the torch.

Every kid deserves a dad. It is so easy to bond w/ kids if you just take them hunting/fishing. It doesn't have to cost much. Just a little bit of your time.

By the way, Thank you for sharing with us, and we sincerely hope you will continue to update or post other articles