After the final classes of the year, there is a lull in the action. It gives us the time to plan for the next year, but also gives us the time to reflect on 2023. Since we started writing a blog back in 2020, this will be the 3rd edition of our “Year in Review.” It is always fun to look back on the previous year to celebrate our victories and learn from the situations in which we could do better. In 2023 we had a busy year and made tremendous progress towards our future growth. We started this year by heading to Las Vegas for the SHOT Show. This was our second time attending and it allowed us to meet with our partners and network with others. Our goal was to get the support that we need to continue to grow our program across the country. I averaged 25k steps a day. Most people go to SHOT as vacation, I go there to work! From the time that it opens to the time that it closes, I zip around booth to booth hoping to earn the support from the industry that we need. This year was fruitful for us from SHOT. I was able to secure 3 new sponsors for 2023 and left feeling tired but, accomplished.
We then headed on the road for the entire month of February and into March. For the past 5 years, we have spent traveling from city to city running our BB gun range. This gives us the ability to reach out to the public, teach the kids safety, and the best part is that the kids get to shoot BB guns! It takes a tremendous amount of time and resources plus volunteers to pull it off. We typically reach 5-6K kids through our travels, this year was a down year for the events. We only reached around 3100 kids. The inflated cost of fuel and other variables impacted our events immensely. Once finished with the 3 events, we welcomed Aero Precision back as our title partner. They have been a steadfast supporter of our program since 2019 and I am grateful for their continued support. In 2023 we (2) new Solus bolt action rifles and a Lahar Suppressor to our program. We demo a rifle in every class that we do.
Another partner that we brought on after SHOT was Vaultek. We have been using their products since 2019 and we love the technology that they use to store your firearms securely. We now demo their products specifically in all of our Kids Firearm Safety 1 classes. We added Timber Creek as a sponsor for our Kids Firearm Safety 2 classes. They are a local manufacturer and we are thankful to have their support of our range program. Lastly, we added Wheeler Tools and Tipton Gun Care as sponsors. We use all of their tools to maintain and service all of our firearms. They are great additions to the important work that we do.
As I was preparing for this post, I had to look back on all of the data that we have created. The data helps tell our story, it also helps track all of the work that we do. We use the data to create posts for social media. We also use the data to forecast budgets for the next year. One of the largest impacts on our budget this year was our fuel costs. It put us in a position where we had to make changes to the work that do in the community. There were a few events that we didn’t do this year because of resources. In previous years we were able to measure the dollar amount it costs our organization to do what we do per kid. This year it cost us 3 times more to reach the amount of kids that we have done in the past. This year was the most challenging that we have faced, we were forced to improvise, adapt, and overcome. The beneficial part is that it helped us improve processes to operate more efficiently. It was a learning experience for sure that will benefit us going into the future. It is an ever-evolving process that helps us continue to update what we do and how we do it.
We continued to grow our classes in the State of Washington. We added additional classes quarterly, which helped us expand the number of kids that we reached. We also expanded our Teen Rifle classes, which gave us the ability to utilize the newest CZ 457 rifles that we fundraised to purchase back in 2022. They were a tremendous addition to our program and will serve us for years to come. Fiscal responsibility, adhering to strict budgets, and having ZERO debt have been a blessing to keep us on our forward trajectory. We have come a very long way from the very beginning, but we have so much still left to do. We just keep our heads down and keep doing the work. 2024 will be a breakout year, I can feel it.
In September we headed back to Phoenix for our annual trip to GRPC. I had the honor of speaking for the 5th year in a row. I shared the stage with my friend Robyn Sandoval with A Girl and A Gun shooting league. We spoke about how we as a 2A community can engage with the next generation. It was a tremendous honor to be able to tell the advocates from around the country about the important work that we are doing on children’s gun safety courses. I take great pride in all of the work that we have done as an organization. I look forward to our growth in 2024! As we came to the end of the year, we finished up with classes in Sherwood and at Centralia, Washington. Hours and hours plus miles and miles traveled equaled an impact on the many communities that we serve. This helped save lives and ensured that our children live long, happy, successful lives. We look forward to seeing you all in 2024. Until then. Be Safe!