Friends of Stillwater prep for festival

Carly Jackson and volunteer mentor/range master Trent Barnes practice shooting.

Carly Jackson and volunteer mentor/range master Trent Barnes practice shooting.

The Friends of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge will have a first-time exhibit featuring an archery game at the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival & Country Fair over Labor Day weekend.

The activity will be an enclosed archery air target game with inflatables, floating balls and bows with foam-tipped arrows. Visitors can pay $1 for a series of shots. There’s also going to be a youth archery bow set raffled off. All funds received will go toward the Friends’ educational youth programs.

The Friends as well as the Lahontan Valley Claybreakers and Wetlands & Wings programs offer numerous youth activities year-round and use the refuge to bring children outdoors. They teach ages 10-17 about gun safety, archery, birding, trapping and other skills including duck and pheasant hunting as well as bird banding for identification. They also provide any supplies from boots and jackets to the different types of guns and ammunition to pheasants.

“We’ve run about 450 kids through the program over the seven years,” said Steve Sawyer, the nonprofit’s board treasurer. “We want kids that have never touched a weapon in their life to come out and see there’s nothing scary about them; it’s very safe and very fun.”

He continued that they’ve had quite a few participants go on to college to study in biology programs and carry on the outdoor work they were exposed to in Fallon.

“It all started with our program,” he said about engaging youth in wildlife and environmental subjects. “Even if we get one or two out of 100, that’s a big deal. For us.”

Sawyer said as far as he knows they’re the only ones in the country doing a 100 percent free program like this as well as using public grounds.

The organization’s exhibit will be open during the main daylight hours of the festival, which is held at the Churchill County Fairgrounds at 325 Sheckler Road.

“We’re all doing this strictly for the kids,” Sawyer said. “We run completely on donations and grants, and 100 percent of that goes back into these kids’ programs.”

A program fundraising dinner is being planned for the future.

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