Stephanie Mallory is a mom, a hunter and Realtree’s PR Coordinator. She’s here to deliver an insider’s look at the outdoor business and give her opinion on all things outdoors—whether you asked for it or not.
Kicking Bear Camps and Events Introduce Children to the Outdoors
For some children, life is anything but easy. Many of them come from broken homes and live in a world of poverty, gangs, drugs and violence. For them, the future is bleak and hope is easily lost. Fortunately, some of these children are finding new hope through the outdoors and the events put on by the Kicking Bear organization. Founded by renowned bowhunter Ray Howell, Kicking Bear is drastically changing the lives of children by introducing them to all the outdoors has to offer. Best of all, these camps are free to any child who wants to attend, and not just for those in at-risk situations. Watch this video for one child’s testimony on the impact Kicking Bear has had on his life.
The two-day Kicking Bear camps are currently held in 20 states and are quickly growing in popularity throughout the country. On Friday nights, children attending the events get to participate in a huge number of outdoor activities and games including rock climbing, tomahawk throwing, fishing, BB gun shooting, gunny sack races, kickball, marshmallow fights, water games and water slides. They camp out that night then wake up to a big pancake breakfast in the morning. The children spend Saturday morning shooting on the archery course where they get to win games and prizes as they move from target to target. After a huge lunch, which often consists of a roasted pig, Saturday afternoon is filled with more games.
According to Howell, the purpose of Kicking Bear is to show youth a better way of life while providing them with a weekend of fun to experience new things and meet new friends. Many of the children who attend a Kicking Bear camp or event claim they had the best time of their lives.
“Our camps give children, especially inner-city children, the opportunity to get outdoors and away from the gangs and violence that often permeate their worlds,” Howell says. “They have the most fun they’ve ever had at our camps and they learn that they can pursue a healthy outdoor lifestyle with people who care for them.”
Kicking Bear offers more than just camps to children who express an interest in hunting and fishing. Children can also take part in Kicking Bear’s group hunting and fishing trips. Children who would normally never have the opportunity to enjoy the wild outdoors are getting to go on unbelievable hunts for deer, turkey and even bigger game such as moose.
“Kicking Bear is one of the only organizations I know of that takes kids who don’t have the opportunity to be outdoors and turns them into license-buying hunters,” Howell says.
Howell, who grew up in the foster care system, understands the life-changing power the outdoors can have firsthand. He was a troubled youth, and as he acknowledges, was well on his way to becoming a troubled adult until a friend’s father took him hunting.
“The first time I went hunting, I knew that I had discovered what I wanted to do with my life,” Howell says. “The outdoors literally changed my life for the better, and I know it can do the same for the children who attend the Kicking Bear events. In fact, I’ve seen it happen. We get hundreds of thank you letters from parents and kids who attended a camp or event and whose lives were changed because of it. In fact, we’re watching things come full circle as children who attended Kicking Bear camps are now coming back as counselors.”
Howell says as a Christ-centered organization, Kicking Bear teaches the children that they have a heavenly father and that God is working in their lives.
"No matter what storms a person may be facing, God has a purpose for his or her life,” Howell says. "Many of the children who attend our camps especially need to hear this message."
All children are invited to attend Kicking Bear camps for free, no matter their backgrounds or circumstances.
“We encourage parents who want their children to participate in the Kicking Bear camps to also bring a child from outside of their family,” he says. “In our opinion, the more children that attend the camps, the more lives that can be changed for the better.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Kicking Bear, check out www.kickingbear.org.