If you want to get your kids into the outdoors, follow the leaders over at the Illinois Conservation Foundation.
It very well be a natural instinct for children to want to spend time in the Great Outdoors. Unfortunately, many of us just don't have the resources available to provide that opportunity. Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities are a major part of our American heritage but we are seeing a decline in these activities all across the country. Luckily, the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) is doing something about it.
Recently, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with the Executive Director of the ICF, Eric Schmidt, to get all the details on what this organization is doing as well what to expect in the future.
Founded in 1994, the ICF became the charitable arm of the Illinois DNR. With an agreement in place to work together, these two organizations are in fact 100 percent separate. As Schmidt was quick to point, his organization is in fact a self operating 501C3 that has their own budget and raises their own funds, completely independent of the state.
Things changed dramatically for the ICF six years ago when they received a gift in the form of 750 acres of private land. From this, the Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center was born where children come from all over to learn how to hunt, fish, and just be outdoors. They even have turkey hunts for kids in the spring and deer hunts in the fall.
Camps are held over the summer at the Torstenson center where kids learn in groups all sorts of different outdoor fundamentals. For example, a geocaching event was held a few weeks ago where kids learned how to use a compass with a GPS unit. The only rule for event was that if kids took something, they had to leave something in its place.
After that event, a similar style camp that focused on fishing was next. Kids fished on the locally stocked pond on the property as well as learned casting techniques and overall water biology.
Just this past weekend, the annual Jakes Day was held. 150 kids participated and were separated into different rotating groups that focused on differing outdoor activities. This event was hosted by the NWTF and had an archery station, BB Gun booth, animal rescue area, and other tents that included one on one instruction to make sure kids retained the info and could ask questions.
Still to come July 11th, 12th, and 13th, is an outdoors archery and skills event. Here, kids will learn proper shooting skills to use a compound bow as well as nature hikes to include photo journal opportunities and instruction.
The best part of everything that the ICF is doing is that it is just getting started. More and more kids are coming to every event as the word is beginning to spread. According to Schmidt, a lot of the kids are coming from backgrounds where there is no hunting or fishing to begin with, but the interest is there, so the parents are providing the outlet.
These events aren't just for kids either. Parents are being taught how to teach their kids about the Great Outdoors as well to help instill these traditions for the future.
There's no doubt about it, Eric Schmidt and the ICF are doing their part to make sure our hunting and fishing heritage is there in the future.
Your kid will thank you for it.