Hunter’s Rendezvous raises $14,000 for Youth Education Fund

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

DOWAGIAC — Local children will have more opportunities for outdoor adventures and experiences with animals thanks to a another successful year of a local event. 

The 25th annual Hunter’s Rendezvous sold roughly $14,000 worth of raffle tickets to benefit its Youth Education Fund on Saturday at the Dowagiac Conservation Club, 54551 M-51 N., Dowagiac. The youth fund provides admission to summer camps, free hunting safety classes and brings nature and wildlife programs into local libraries and schools, among other things.

“It was very successful; we had a great turnout” said Hunter’s Rendezvous co-chair Stephanie Lyons. “We just had our membership meeting [Monday], and we had some people that became members because of what we’ve been doing for youth. … They’ve seen it and want to be part of it.”

According to Lyons, the event – which also aims to increase child interest in outdoor activities – saw more than 100 children attend. Each child was entered in a free raffle which included a Red Ryder BB gun. Kids were also able to see a turtle and snake brought by the John Ball Zoo, participate in a youth adventure on the property, eat s’mores by the bonfire and learn about the Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp, hosted by Michigan United Conservation Clubs. 

With a portion of the funds raised, the club intends to send 15 children aged 9-16 to the MUCC Out-of-Doors camp in Chelsea, which costs $450 per child. According to the MUCC, the youth Camp is a 6-day, 5-night summer adventure designed to instill a love for the outdoors into Michigan’s kids. The camp aims to teach the value of conservation while showing them the benefits of the outdoors. Activities include fishing, canoeing, swimming, hiking, forestry, wildlife identification, archery and basic firearms safety.

“The kids were just so excited to be there, and to learn about the program,” Lyons said. “Parents are excited to take their kids and introduce them to this type of environment … away from the video games, away from television.”

Last year, the Youth Education Fund brought a traveling wild animal exhibit to the Dowagiac District Library, funded a visit from the Potawatomi Zoo to Kincheloe Elementary and hosted a meet-and-greet with animals from the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. The program also purchased more than 100 nature and animal-related books to distribute to area Little Free Library locations, as well as sent 330 TRACKS magazines to area elementary schools.

While Lyons said the fund will go towards more of the same, she is always looking for new ways to get kids interested in the outdoors.

“I’m constantly searching and trying to come up with new ideas,” she said. “Whether is getting kids to come to something or something we can send to kids.”

Also participating in the event was veterans group the Fallen Outdoors, gun appraiser Jack Crouse, Legends and Tails Taxidermy, Gold Coast Fishing Company and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Indian Lake and Wayne Township Fire Departments were also on hand to assist with the bonfire and s’mores station. 

Winners of the main raffle prizes were:

  • 1st prize: Chest Freezer filled with meat by Clear Water Meats – Adam LeVallee
  • 2nd prize: Camouflage Ruger .350 rifle – Greg Roberts
  • 3rd prize: Fireproof gun safe – Zana Klomes
  • 4th prize: Blackstone Griddle – Tom Atkinson
  • 5th prize: Camouflage recliner – Dar Born