What do S’mores, fishing, camping, baseball, military youth programs, and a whole lot of other fun things have to do with each other in one story?
One heck of a great weekend with an introduction to family camping and fishing at Swanzey Lake Campground with the NH State Fish and Game Department that’s what!
Being so involved in drug prevention activities in the local area; I like to help create events that make for great learning opportunities for our youth and families to learn how to do some new things that they might not have normally tried on their own for one reason or another. I try to come up with the type of outdoor activities and programs that will create an atmosphere good for young and old alike to encourage great family outings, with many learning and bonding opportunities.
With this thought process in mind, I was able to create a free, fun-filled weekend to help introduce family style camping and integrate into that a learn to fish program hosted by the NH Fish and Game to allow everybody to explore the basic skills and equipment needed to enjoy the sport of fishing. The trainers taught us great stuff like how to tie a hook, cast a line, all about the types of fish in our native waters, safety, and about conservation. Then we all went down at the water’s edge to put our new fishing skills to the test! This is a great program to help you and your family learn all about fishing as is it free and a fishing license is not required while fishing during the designated hours of hese training programs, and the State Fish and Game department teaches these classes and provides all of the fishing equipment and materials you will need so they take out all of the worry and uncertainty for you.
We also built in several fun activities such as watching an outdoor movie using a sheet and movie projector, gave lessons on how to build a camp-fire, cooking on a Dutch oven like the scouts do to make brownies for desert and even omelets in a bag for breakfast, making ice-cream in a bag, and doing some classic stuff like face-painting, putting on temporary tattoos, making s’mores etc…but we also were able to build in a few other neat features for all ages to participate in and enjoy that encourage family time and healthy choice activities without drugs or alcohol.
We had local ‘WGYB’ substance abuse prevention coalition members come down to present one of their free family programs called “Guiding Good Choices” which is a five week researched based drug-prevention program for all family members to participate in one day each week to help teach families how to foster stronger bonds, work together as a family unit in solving any family issues, helps give parents the skills they need to ensure the future well-being of their children and especially help prevent substance abuse in teens.
We even had some members of the Keene Swamp Bats come down to toss a ball around with the kids during one of our breaks, and we had a presentation by the US Naval Sea Cadets to explain to us the program they have for youth ages 11-17 that encourages youth to develop, trains them in seagoing skills as well as several career fields, teaches them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues. This is an amazing program that has proven to me time and time again what it can do for our youth. If you want to see a strong, independent, goal orientated, respectable teenager, get them involved in one of these types of programs…the Sea Cadets is just one of them, and is affiliated with the Navy, there are also the Civil Air Patrol, affiliated with the Air Force, the United States Army Cadet Corps, and the Young Marines. Check online for the nearest branch to you. They all offer great opportunities for our youth to prosper and grow into respectable young adults.
The nights around the campfire were especially fun as all were encouraged to sing, tell stories, or share their favorite part of each day and we had some talented young singers there! We had some fun prizes and free samples from local businesses to enjoy such as gummy night crawlers to eat and a great new insect repellent everybody loved from EcoSmart which is an organic repellent that smells great with ingredients like Cinnamon, Lemongrass and Rosemary! It is organic and worked great…best of both the worlds!
This weekend turned out to be fantastic with eight families participating, with thirteen children and everybody having a great time. The kids learned all about fishing and camping, a little about baseball, the Sea Cadets, and had a lot of fun. The adults got to spend some good quality time together and learned about some of the areas free family programs to help build and foster family communication and togetherness.
The whole weekend was at no cost to any of us as the campsite was generously donated by the owners of Swanzey Lake Campground, the “Let’s Go Fishing” class and supplies were sponsored by the State of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the local cub scout troop leaders volunteered their time to teach some handy skills, and the food and prizes were donated by local area businesses such as WalMart, Target, Shaw’s, Liberty Mutual, Mr. G’s Discount variety and Price Chopper. The idea and time to pull it all together were limited; all it took was a little bit of passion to make it happen, and the ability to talk to your community members. I find this easy when it is on such an important subject as our children and families as the overall health of these reflect entirely upon a community. I find that when doing events such as these, the community is very eager to join in and will help almost every time.
I like to ask people to think about the ideal type of neighborhood they would like to live in and what that would look like to them. If you think about that for a minute, I am sure you can see how this type of community action can be a large part of a healthy vibrant community and an overall better New Hampshire for all of us.
With this, I would like to challenge you as a member of your community, a parent, or even older brother/sister to go out and try to think of a fun, healthy activity that you are passionate about and would like to help others learn about, then do as I did and make it become an opportunity for learning for others. I guarantee you that it will be one of the most rewarding things you can do not only for yourself, but for many others.
Let’s make New Hampshire the best place to live and enjoy the great outdoors together!