By Sherrie Norris
For the last 13 years, a group of local sportsmen have joined forces to raise money and awareness for local kids through their organization known as Hunters Helping Kids, dedicated primarily to inspiring and educating youngsters in wildlife conservation and management.
In addition to individual and group events, and teaching a variety of life and safety skills in various settings, the High Country Chapter of the organization has taken the program to far greater heights in helping families with children in need. But, they cannot do it alone.
To continue their mission, Hunters Helping Kids will once again sponsor their highly anticipated fundraiser on Friday, March 2. The annual banquet, always a sell-out event, includes barbecue and all the trimmings, as well as music, raffles and a live auction with an assortment of artwork by some of today’s nationally recognized wildlife artists, as well as guns, sporting equipment and so much more.
Working with and for the kids is something the group is very passionate about, said spokesperson Annette Fox, who with her husband, Ben, has been involved with the organization from the beginning.
“We are dedicated to helping children in Watauga County,” Fox said, ‘and with the help of the proceeds from the banquet, we are able to sponsor our annual Kids Day each August (at Appalachian Ski Mountain) for hundreds of youngsters to come out to learn and have a good time. We also have an annual scholarship for which we encourage seniors at Watauga High School to apply. It is for $1,000 each year for four years, providing the requirements are met each semester.”
Fox said the sportsmen’s group also provides backpacks for a large number of Watauga students each spring, in addition to providing snacks and/or hygiene products for the youngsters.
“We have also helped with fire victims, the local back-to-school festival, Santa’s Toy Box and the MS society, just to name a few things,” Fox added. “We are committed to raising money and putting it back into our community.”
And, it’s all organized by a hardworking committee of volunteers through the sportsmen’s organization who give countless hours of their time each year to make it happen. The committee members are: Ben and Annette Fox, Doug and Pam Winkler, Dennis and Sabrina Thomas, Wayne and Kelia Caudill, Kenny and Leah Cole, Chad Cole, LeAnn Ellis, Sam Thompson, Morgan Smith, Maggie McNeil, Alicia Cornell, Jeremy Reece, Billy Chick, Landon Phillips, Doug Cheshier, Tim Wilson, Caleb Isaacs and Casey Miller.
Foremost, Fox added, the continued support of sponsors is key to the program’s success.
“While we are always looking for new sponsors and committee members, we want to make sure those others, past and present, know how much we appreciate their help,” she said. “The more money they help us raise, the more we can help kids in Watauga County.
The Hunters Helping Kids banquet will be held at Alliance Bible Fellowship, located at 1035 NC Highway 105 Bypass in Boone. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the meal served at 7 p.m. The high-energy auction begins at 8 p.m. with raffles continuing throughout the evening.
Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door: $20 for individuals, $30 for couples and $10 for children ages 10-15; children 9 and under are admitted free.
Event sponsorships are still available for $240, which includes two banquet tickets, a sponsor gift, $200 in raffle tickets, a chance to win the sponsor gun, your name displayed on the back of the kids day T-shirt, Hunters Helping Kids website and Facebook page.
For more information, contact any of the aforementioned committee members or call (828) 264-3557.
More About Hunters Helping Kids
Hunters Helping Kids is a non-profit organization officially established in 2005, but began earlier when Chris Hatley and several of his friends started taking kids hunting around their North Carolina homes. It soon became evident to Hatley and others that the hunts had a positive effect upon the kids who participated.
Eventually, Hunters Helping Kids evolved and has since grown tremendously in interest on all levels with expansion into New York, Texas and all points in between.
As one of the group’s most popular events that continues today, the “ultimate hunt” became a huge success practically overnight, during which six youngsters are provided food and lodging for their families, in addition to a rifle, camouflage clothing and assorted hunting merchandise that becomes theirs to keep.
The number of kids that have been exposed to the great outdoors by Hunters Helping Kids nationally continues to grow and also includes opportunities for those children with special needs.
The High Country Chapter of Hunters Helping Kids hosts the annual Kids Field Day each August at Appalachian Ski Mountain, as a way to help teach youngsters safety skills through a wide range of fun activities, including fishing, archery, rifle and fire safety. The daylong event also includes meals and snacks at no cost to participating families.
For more information and registration form for the kids field day, visit www.hhkhighcountry.org