Building A Legacy
October 1, 2018
By Mike Tomano
© 2018 Fossil Entertainment Group
Early morning, September 16, 2018. I’m heading to The South Wilmington Sportsmen’s Club to return a cooler mistakenly put in my truck. Numerous scenes from the previous day play out in my mind. Our 8th Annual Troutdog Outdoor Family Adventure Camp was a tremendous success; with families coming together to shoot archery, learn firearm safety and marksmanship basics, fish for blue-gills, canoe the serene waters, and share camaraderie in The Great Outdoors. As I turn down the gravel road leading to the gated entrance, I pull over to think about what we have accomplished. I can feel a lump in my throat and my eyes getting moist.
Our day started in the clubhouse with a light breakfast, introductions, overview of the day’s events and a prayer, before heading for activities. Volunteer Dave Osborne handled fishing. A few “trophies” were caught and released. The kids were determined to “catch the Big One!” Dave untangled lines, baited hooks and helped the kids cast their lines; and he did it with his contagious smile and kind demeanor.
I met Dave some years ago through my radio show. He and his son accompanied me on a hog hunt and we’ve kept in touch ever since. We’ve shot archery together. We’ve hunted pheasants and rabbits together. We’ve called coyotes together. We’ve laughed…a lot… together. And, with his generous help, we are working together to get The Next Generation HOOKED on The Great Outdoors!
Families took our canoes for a spin around the lake, enjoying the calming effect of the water and observing nature. One of our return participants Gianni and I set sail in my battered ol’ green aluminum craft. We tucked into a channel and kicked up a flock of geese. As we took in their abrupt ascension into the clear blue sky, amid a cacophony of honking, I savored the moment…hoping they wouldn’t drop any souvenirs on us to commemorate it.
Our archery course was once again manned by Nick Fowler and his expert crew from Agape Outdoors. Sharing God’s message through the wonders of The Great Outdoors, they volunteer their time and expertise each year; instructing our attendees in the basics of archery. There is nothing like the sense of awe and accomplishment when a child hits their first bull’s eye. Each year I get contacted by attendees wanting advice on buying bows. Archery is one of the most relaxing and rewarding endeavors a family can get involved in; and we proudly set them on their way! Together with Agape Outdoors, we are building confidence and accomplishment in youth.
Bob Nicksic and Eric Gantt oversaw the firearm range. They command attention and hammer home gun safety, range rules and marksmanship maneuvers until they are understood by all. Our arsenal of Daisy Red Ryders and assorted pellet guns get quite the workout. When a child is taught proper gun safety, they proceed with a matured sense of responsibility. The discipline available through the shooting sports can and will transfer into other aspects of their lives. Bob and Eric are great teachers. I cherish their friendship. Troutdog relies on their sacrifice and commitment.
Traversing the massive grounds was Warren Wietting. He taxied our participants in his tractor and hay- bale-stacked trailer back and forth from our shooting areas to the lake. He always takes time en route to point out songbirds, critters and tree-types to the families. Warren has been with me from day one. Back in 2009, I told Warren of my plan to start a charity in honor of My Old Man. “Whatever you need,” he said, and boy did he mean it. When Warren says he is going to do something; he does it. When Warren does something; he does it right. Warren has dedicated time, effort and money to Troutdog. His worth is immeasurable.
Nick Gantt and his friends Austin Rodden and Will Alberico helped in each activity. I’ve had the pleasure of hunting with Nick many times and, though I’m three times his age, consider him one of my great buddies. Nick, Austin & Will are three teenagers with tremendous passion for life, great senses of humor, firm handshakes and manners for miles. They exercised patience and care with the little ones, held articulate conversations with the adults and set a great example of how young men should conduct themselves. Fine gentlemen. They are on their way to great things. God bless ‘em.
Then there’s Denise. A library can be written on the wonderfulness of my lovely bride. Regarding Troutdog; she is the glue that keeps it all together. She handles the charity logistics & legalities (Ugh!), activity planning & scheduling (Oof!), and coordination of the event (Wow!). I couldn’t make Troutdog happen without her insight and commitment.
Our lunch consisted of delicious pulled pork made by my beautiful sister-in-law, Beverly; Eric’s awesome venison chili, hot dogs and chips. My in-laws / dear friends Lora and Rick Bell helped coordinate our overflowing grub-line. After a hardy meal, we all set out for more arrow-flingin’, gun-shootin’, fishin’ and canoeing. Quite noticeable was the absence of kids staring at cell phones. Instead, they were running, smiling and laughing. They were engaging in meaningful conversation; learning new skills and experiencing nature. Splendid.
I’ve been a member of The South Wilmington Sportsmen’s Club since Moses parted Clear Lake. It’s provided decades of family fun, outdoor adventure and cherished memories. Since founding the charity in 2010, Dave Dvorak and his staff have gone above and beyond in accommodating our needs. We are grateful for their graciousness.
This year’s event marked the thirteenth anniversary of my father’s death.
These are the people that make The Troutdog Outdoor Family Adventure Camp a reality. These are the people who volunteer their time and expertise to introduce newcomers to The Great Outdoors. Together we are instilling the spirit of nature and the lure of the wild. Together, we are building a legacy. Together we are making My Old Man proud.