"Kids these days..."
The popular phrase we use to shrug off the, at times, eradicate, disengaged, and eccentric behavior of today's youth. Yet, Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors is the exception.
Rather than wringing their hands of the future of our youth and our sporting heritage, they have rolled up their sleeves. They seek "to provide outdoor experiences and ongoing opportunities to children and mentors... positively impacting the conservation of natural resources and the lives of children," according to their mission statement provided by director Mike Christensen.
According to Christensen, Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors, Inc., began in 1999 "as a partnership between the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters to bolster the ranks of hunters and anglers."
Initially funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and under the direction of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mike was hired in July 2002, since then, the program has blossomed. Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors now creates a positive impact from Alaska to Alabama and operates as its own separate 501(c)-3 while still remaining close to its roots with the Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Moving forward, their goal is to expand their reach into other states through state youth coordinators who connect kids in need to adults with the same beliefs and mission as Pass It On.
"The Youth Coordinators will also coordinate with their respective state fish and wildlife agency to maximize the utilization of resources (e.g. access to facilities and venues, educational materials and workshops, loaner equipment, etc.)," Christensen wrote in an email.
Christensen also stated "All activities will be provided at no cost to youth participants.... No person will be excluded because of lack of personal funds to cover costs."
Wow! What an organization!
Recently, I wrote an article on Red Plaid Society, a brand I started with the hopes of promoting and donating a percentage to groups like Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors. Groups like Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors and others like them need to be celebrated.
At times, I feel like not enough attention is paid to groups and individuals doing conservation deeds by working with actual people, changing lives. Most conservation news seems filled with political noise about some new government agenda that will impact conservation one way or another. While I see the need and validity of those headlines, groups like Pass It On-Outdoors Mentors, creates conservation voters and supporters while potentially changing someone's life in the process: a goal that is much nobler in my opinion.
Opening up young eyes to the wonder of nature and fostering a desire to care for it is one thing, but helping them learn discipline, respect, and stewardship of themselves and others in the process is another.
Next time you catch yourself about to absentmindedly spat out, "Kids these days..." stop yourself. Stop the hand wringing. Instead, roll up your sleeves, and learn more by connecting with Pass It On-Outdoor Mentors.
Get involved. Make a difference.