2020 In Review
As I sit here, looking at photos from the past year. Thinking about how to put into words what 2020 was to us as an Organization. I am thankful, yet sad about the struggles that we faced in the past year. While our struggles seemed big, in the grand scheme of things they were minor compared to the suffering others experienced. Entering 2020 we were on a roll, we were poised to break records from the previous year. We had a goal to reach 10k kids. We were excited, we had some money in the bank. Our year started strong, we started with everything headed in the right direction.
January was busy preparing for our upcoming Sportsman show tours. In the beginning of February 2020 we started the first show in Eugene. We had a great time, fundraised, and met many new faces in our hometown crowd. During those shows we blow up our Daisy Inflatable BB gun range and outreach to the local communities. This gives us the ability to teach important skills to the kids and get them involved in the shooting sports. We have taught kids as young as 3 years old to shoot our customized Daisy Red Ryder BB guns. Every kid that enters the range puts on safety glasses and gets a safety brief before they ever shoot. We cover the 4 basic safety rules. They go as follows:
There has been a couple of examples of where our training has thwarted some pretty serious situations, one could have been tragic. When we are talking about the Anti-bullying component part, we break it down into 3 steps. Steps are important because they create order and it gives kids a directive to follow. This makes it easier to remember what they are taught. We have 3 steps, they are similar to our firearm safety steps, that help prevent accidents.
1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded!
2. Keep your muzzle pointed in a SAFE direction! (We prefer up or down, never pointed at someone.)
3. Keep your finger straight and off of the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to FIRE!
4. Make sure of your TARGET, BACKSTOP, and what is BEYOND!
The second show we traveled to Roseburg. That Community is always appreciative for our services. This was the third year in a row we went back. We added something new this year. We added our Kids Firearm Safety 1 class to the venue. This allowed us the opportunity to reach the kids and families of that community. This let us do what we do best and teach the kids about what not to DO if they ever encountered an unsecured firearm. This allows us to reinforce the skills that we are teaching the kids with the BB guns. It is really the highlight of the weekend. We were able to give out wristbands, temporary tattoos, and educate the families about the important work that we do. In Roseburg there are a lot of firearms, It is our goal to teach the parents the importance of proper storage and education! It was a great time.
The next weekend we headed further south to Medford. We have a great, dedicated, group of volunteers that give their time to make these events all possible. It means spending and entire month of weekends, on the road, living out of suitcases. Their sacrifices help us fundraise and help spread our important message of safety to the many different communities that we are fortunate to serve. We were able to reach a lot of families, shoot some BB guns, and also hold a Firearm Safety 1 Class. All in all it was a great weekend. Only one more to go!!
The first week of March we headed to Anderson CA. It is by far the most complicated show of the season due to the logistics. After 3 straight weeks in a row, on the road. We are all ready for a break. The parents are always thankful for the Education!! The one thing about California is that they have the highest rates of restriction in the country. Yet no access to Education for the kids. This is troubling for us. There is a huge population of “Illegal” guns in CA. The laws continue to change and what was once legal is now illegal with the stroke of a pen. This is bad for the residents and especially bad for the kids. The parents don’t talk to their kids about their guns because of fear that they potentially could get in trouble. This makes the kids very vulnerable. They are grateful for the Education we are able to provide for the weekend. We pack up with a sense of accomplishment without knowing what is about to hit our country and state.
Lastly it was nearly 2 years ago when we taught a class to a group of Cub Scouts. There were 41 kids in that class. We had a good time. A month later I received a email from one of the mothers. She told me a story about how her son was bullied at school. Luckily for everyone he remembered his training. He got out of the situation and got her involved. Her son stated that the bully was going to bring a gun to school to “deal” with him. She called law enforcement and they intercepted the kid on his way to school. They ended up finding a handgun in his backpack. It was that close. It is an important lesson. As hard as it is, our children are our first responders!! It’s important that if they ever hear any threat of violence by someone, towards someone, or to themselves. That they alert someone. This could literally save more lives than any potential new legislation. In closing raise strong kids. It is the greatest gift that you will give our country. Teach your kids to WIN!! Teach your kids to stand up for others, give a voice to those that don’t feel comfortable doing it. Teach them to be advocates. The republic depends on it. Until next time, thank you for reading my words.
We arrive back home and literally hadn’t even unloaded all of our gear when the news broke. The State of Oregon entered its first lockdown due to the covid. We were shocked, what do we do? We had to cancel all of the classes on our schedule. Covid put all of our goals on hold. We had huge plans for 2020, what do we do now? A week into the lockdown there was a 12 year old shot by a friend in Springfield! That was hard to hear knowing that there was nothing we could do. It was so sad yet infuriating because there was so much misinformation about the virus. Will we ever be able to get back to work? Is everything that we have been planning still going to work out? What will happen to our partnerships with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s? To see what we had built for many years and now ceased all operations. It was terrifying. We had to evolve as an Organization. We had to change how we operated. Luckily we had funding, we had some free time. So we experimented with different ways to reach the public.
We were shut down for nearly 2 months, luckily in May we were able to get back to work at the local Cabela’s. There were quite a few hoops to jump through but, we were able to get back to teaching SAFETY!! The first class back was small, we didn’t care though. It was the first piece of normalcy that we had had in a few months. The smiles and handshakes were replaced with masks. For everyone’s safety we changed our policies to limit contact. No contact would hopefully help us from spreading covid. It wasn’t easy but, we were prepared to do whatever we could to be compliant. It was a challenge at first. People were definitely scared. We had to show everyone that we were doing everything we could to keep everyone safe. Building trust was important. Many of the events that we previously did in the public were cancelled. We had no parades, no baseball, no rodeos. We were able to keep moving forward. Keeping our message positive and focusing on our infrastructure was critical to continuing our important work.
In August I lost my corporate job and I believe it was my higher power telling me that it was time to put my entire soul into what we do. The day after the layoff I got a call from a web designer, knowing that was our weakest link I heard them out. Over the years I have had 5 negative experiences with web designers and have always been skeptical. I heard them out. It was a real low point I was at a crossroad, do I take a chance or do I play it safe and look for a new day job? I prayed. I thought to myself “I didn’t come this far, only to make it this far!!” I took 24 hours, took insight from my Board of Directors, made an official vote and started the process. I bet on ME and what I love to do, educate the kids. In less than 3 weeks we had a functional website. My fear had gone away, we now had something that we could grow with and something to be proud of. We were back in business!! I started writing a blog. This is a way for me to put into words the direction we are headed and it has been really fun. A lot of work but I’m getting used to it.
While we were idle for 2 months, the time off gave us the time to build out the new website, hire an attorney to help us with trademark and copyrighting. Our next step was to finalize our curriculum so that once finished, we can roll out across the country with the help from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. The goal is to increase our reach and turn 21k kids reached into a couple hundred thousand kids. We hope to have everything ready to roll out in early 2021, stay tuned! We started 2020 and covid made us innovate what we do. Towards the end of 2020 we were blessed with opportunity to help the local community. There was a local donor that wanted our help with helping those in need. We set up a new way too outreach to the public. Operation Giveback was born. We set up at a few locations, I dressed up as Santa and we gave out household goods to those in need. It was a big hit and allowed us to partner with local businesses for the venue. We had a solid group of volunteers. It was great to see the reactions from the families that we were able to help. Many were struggling, covid has devastated many and it was great to be able to bring a little joy to the families we met. We look forward to 2021, January 7th, when we go back to work. Until then thank you for your continued support, we look forward to meeting your family soon. Special thanks to all of the volunteers that made 2020 a possibility, truly you all are heroes. ZERO firearm accidents is the only acceptable goal!!™