Attendees at the chapter’s recent banquet in Cheyenne were encouraged to donate outdoor gear for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Forever Wild Families program. “We thought we’d get a few items, but we’re overwhelmed at the response,” said Megan Rutherford, co-chair of the chapter.
She said many of the 600 attendees donated useful outdoor items from rifle scopes to fishing rods to camo clothing. “The attendees donated so much gear (320 items) we had to bring a trailer in to transport it to the Game and Fish,” Rutherford added. “It was really quite impressive.”
The items are part of the “Camo Cache,” the equipment storehouse for the Forever Wild Families program. The program introduces families to hunting, fishing and the outdoors through volunteer and Game and Fish mentors and equipment provided by manufacturers, retailers and generous individuals like Muley Fanatic Foundation supporters.
In its first three years, the program has introduced and provided multiple opportunities to learn to hunt and fish to 33 families totaling 164 participants in the Lander, Cody and Laramie areas.
“The program continues to center on relationship-building within our communities connecting people to their land, food, water and nature,” said Tasha Sorensen, program coordinator.
She says survey tools revealed that purchasing all the necessary gear could pose a barrier to continuing hunting and fishing in the outdoors.
“As Forever Wild Family participants head to the field or lake, they are properly outfitted from the Cache, increasing the likelihood they will feel comfortable and enjoy the experience,” Sorensen said.
She said the donated gear becomes the property of the families upon completing one year in the program. Following that, as they either grow out of it, such as children’s clothing, or upgrade equipment, they are encouraged to donate it back for new program families.
“Support from groups like the Muley Fanatic Foundation are a key reason the Forever Wild Families has had a great start in Wyoming and is being planned in other states, too,” Sorensen said. Donated items will be handed out at the next Forever Wild Families event by the Muley Fanatic Foundation.
“Building this relationship between our conservation organizations and new hunters, shooting sports participants and anglers is a win-win situation,” Sorensen said.
The Southeast Wyoming Chapter is also collecting Camo Cache donations at Cheyenne Gun Traders and Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Cheyenne. Some members have also donated their mentoring skills to the program.
Game and Fish is hoping to add more mentors to the program and help promote Wyoming’s outdoor traditions. “The Game and Fish will help match your skills and interests to the needs of participants,” Sorensen said.
Families and mentors interested in participating in or contributing to multiple, high-quality experiential opportunities in hunting, fishing and the shooting sports are encouraged to contact Sorensen at (307) 777-4536 firstname.lastname@example.org.