P.O Box 41194 Eugene, OR 97404

What We Have Learned From 8 Years Of Service

Apr 25, 2024 | Blogs

As part of the growth process, we must reflect on the past to learn from our experiences. We have an Organization that started from a concept and through a tremendous amount of work. We have built it into what it is today. One important part to note is that at the very beginning of our program, we did NOT have a manual for the work that we were trying to accomplish. We have learned a lot from trial and error. It has mostly been a good learning experience with some losses but for the majority of our career, there have been many wins. While the losses hurt, it is important to celebrate the wins yet still learn and get better from the things that didn’t go in our favor. This is the only way to grow. When you do what we do, there are lives attached to the work that we do in the public. As one of our goals, we must educate young children about the dangers of an unsecured firearm. We never try to scare them, but speak about this important topic in a way where they can be empowered to make good, safe decisions. I remember back in 2016, coming up with the phrase “ZERO firearm accidents is the only acceptable goal!!” I was in Utah for training and I was driving from Salt Lake City to Park City Utah. As we drove, I noticed on the side of the highway that stated “ZERO Drunk Driving accidents is the only acceptable goal.” That sign stuck with me and I modified the concept to fit the work that I was in development. This gave us a powerful mantra that we could use to reinforce our mission.

It was early in the infancy of the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation, I remember being at work when I came up with that name. We were already an approved nonprofit, so I had to modify the name of our organization from a previous name. This was an evolution for us and kind of set the stage for where we are today. One thing that we will always celebrate is where we are today is NOT where we will be tomorrow. We are constantly learning and improving so we can be of better service to the public. I remember vividly little things that we would do in the beginning that we could no longer do because of the optics involved. We used to have young children handle firearms because we were teaching them muzzle and trigger discipline, but unfortunately today this action could be misinterpreted by the public. From the outside looking in, it may appear that we are “arming” young children, yet from our position, this couldn’t be further from the truth. At the very beginning, we learned quickly about optics and fortunately put ourselves in a position where we avoid public controversy. The drama is counterproductive to the message.

Another important lesson that we learned in the very beginning is how young children CAN safely handle firearms and learn how to shoot if taught properly from a young age. It was there on the range that we were able to hone and create an effective range program. It was hands-on learning and truly hands-on development that has allowed us to create something special. It was direct feedback from children and families on the range that helped shape the work that we do there. One thing that we realized very early is how every child learns differently. What one child might learn in our Kids Firearm Safety 1 classes might need the hands-on learning of our Kids Firearm Safety 2 classes to make those important principles make sense. We have always said that important life skills are taught on the rifle range. While we are not trying to “arm” young children, we are trying to give young children opportunities, period. People fear what they don’t know and it is our job to offer the public a safe and comfortable place to learn.

The most disappointing part of our journey is how, as a country, we are no closer to being able to save young children from an accident than we were when we first started. Mostly because of the division that exists in our country, we would rather stay in our camps, limit our exposure to those that challenge our preconceived notions, and limit our personal growth. This commonly manifests itself in this very narrow view of the left vs right argument. As someone who is in the middle of this argument am stuck holding the bag of action. I am here on this planet to do one thing only and that is leave this planet better than I found it. I feel that I am on the right track to do just this. The biggest challenge that this country faces is the division. The powers that be want us separated and in smaller boxes, when we are in smaller boxes it is easier for us to be controlled. Moms Demand Action blames the gun community for profiting off of the death, and the gun industry is never proactive in investing in the next generation and their safety. Kids continue to get hurt, and MDA sends out fundraising emails, and the vicious cycle repeats. We as Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation are here struggling to get the message out because of big tech censorship and almost out of money to be able to continue to operate our important mission. This type of honesty isn’t easy for me but I have to be real with the public. I just have never been in this position before and am scared for our future and definitely feel that after 8 years in operation, I should not still be a volunteer. By the grace of god, I am still here because I believe with every ounce of my being that we are doing the right thing.

A really cool learning experience was from 2019 when I wrote a Senate bill that would have authorized our program for all first graders, in the public schools in the State of Oregon. It was 1 page, simple, turnkey, and would have saved lives from day 1! It was during this season of our career that I learned how to navigate the political machine. It was here that I was able to learn about how I could become a more effective advocate for our children. It was fun to navigate the process and get a few wins. We got a public hearing and that was an important milestone. I am hoping to try it once again next year. Hopefully, I can get them to listen. As I developed my skills as the founder and President of the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation. I quickly realized how what we do need to change. This evolution came in the form of a young man who was vision impaired. What I thought I knew about gun safety for kids was turned on its ear. For many years we have taught young kids to not not touch guns and in this situation, when his eyes are his fingers. I had to evolve what we do. He taught me so much about being a better advocate. He then joined us on the range, it was one of the most powerful and impactful times for all of us that were involved that day. He showed us that there is nothing in life that this young man can accomplish if given the opportunity.

It has been 8 years now that we have been an Organization. It has been an amazing journey to be able to impact so many families over the years. Every child reached, which is now over 29,000 in 5 states has been a part of this story. They are all force multipliers and they will all go out into their circles of friends and be little leaders. They will teach their friends that guns are tools, not toys! The impact of our program will reach so much further than the 29,000 kids that we have originally reached. We are so thankful for all of your support over the years and we look forward to another 20 years of service. Until next time. Be safe!

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