I got into conservation at eight years old. I pushed and punched my way through the legs of a group of lifeguards that were tormenting a sand-shark down the shore. I carried that fish back to the water as my Newark-tough Dad watched. Never looking away from the lifeguards, he quietly said, “You did the right thing, Chris.”
Although perhaps less dramatically, I bet that most of us discovered conservation with, or through, our parents or other adults. One of the best examples of this is happening within our ranks right now. Every summer, 24 different Trout Unlimited (TU) state councils, often in collaboration with great businesses such as Rise Fishing Company, host youth conservation camps for high school kids with the goal of connecting kids to nature and conservation through fishing.
(photo credit: Michigan TU Youth Camp)
We’ve all heard the charge to “take a kid fishing” so many times it can become easy to ignore. But sometimes taking a kid fishing can not only shape a conservation ethic, it can change a life.
So, it was with teenager, Adam Beede. Adam attended the Colorado youth camp hosted by TU volunteers, and Coldwater Conservation Fund Board member, Paul Vahldiek. Adam suffered complication after complication from a series of knee surgeries. After months, in and out of hospitals, in his words:
“Between all of the surgeries, I no longer recognized who I was. I fell so deeply into this hole, that I hadn’t realized who, or what, the surgeries forced me to become. I spent the next months looking for the old me—the me that I enjoyed, the me that I wanted to be. I was somber, and all too lost.”
Then, Adam attended the Colorado youth camp. Under the patient watch of Sharon Lance, Mike Nicholson, and other volunteers for TU in Colorado, Adam began to interact with the other kids. After a few days, Adam’s shyness disappeared and he was star-gazing, fishing, checking out bugs, and learning about conservation with the other kids.
By the time the last day of camp rolled around, Adam felt healed. So much so that he wrote: “One ranch, one organization, and one special group of people provided me with a feeling I hadn’t felt in an awfully long time; happiness. Because of TU Summer Camp, I found my lost life, and unraveled a lifetime of memories.”
(photo credit: Georgia TU Youth Camp)
For more than 25 years, I have kept a cheesy card my parents gave me at my college graduation. It says, in part, that success is defined as knowing that at least one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is Hallmark-tripe stuff; and I believe it to my core, especially when it comes to kids.
So, cheers to all of you who donate time, experience, and cash to help make kids such as Adam breathe easier through your support of youth camps. If you want to help support our youth education program or youth camps, please let me or Franklin Tate, TU’s youth education director know.