The NWTF Arkansas State Chapter and its local chapters have a rich history of delivering the NWTF’s mission in the Natural State, and the 2023 Cleveland County JAKES Day was no exception.
With over 207 kids and an action-packed day of hands-on learning, the NWTF Cutter and Stutters Chapter considers the event one of the best it has ever had in the annual event’s 23 years.
NWTF JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) Days engage youth in outdoor pursuits and instill lifelong traditions. The Cleveland County JAKES Day event included numerous learning stations where kids spoke with experts and engaged with the activities at each station, including hunter and shooting safety, shotgun shooting, taxidermy, animal identification, trapping, off-road vehicle education and more. NWTF volunteers are the driving force that brings together the different experts from the community to make such events successful.
“Our younger volunteers are bringing new, much-needed energy to our events that is infectious,” said Terry Thompson, former NWTF Arkansas State Chapter president and NWTF volunteer for 37 years. “This JAKES Day got not just the kids fired up, but the entire community; that is what it is all about.”
Jimmy Edmond and John Varnell, NWTF Arkansas volunteers and Cleveland County JAKES Day coordinators, raised over $5,000 in donations prior to the event, allowing for meals at the free event and hosting a variety of giveaways for the kids, including 21 firearms.
“When you get businesses like MFK Game Calls, Thermal Optics Plus, and the overall members of the community that came together that have the same passion, you can accomplish anything you set forth,” Varnell said. “JAKES Day was created to make a lasting impact in the hearts and minds of our youth. Some adults at the event remember going to these events and still having those memories in their hearts that are now making those memories with their kids and passing on the knowledge of the great outdoors – it doesn’t get much better!”
When including the kids, their parents and volunteers, attendance exceeded 400 individuals —creating more energy for next year’s event, which may be held at a new venue to accommodate the growing participation.
Established in 1981, the NWTF’s JAKES program is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth 17 and younger in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of our natural resources. JAKES events help pass on the traditions of responsible hunting, teach the principles of habitat management, hunting ethics and safety.
For $10 a year, JAKES receive a year subscription to JAKES Country magazine (four issues), a chance to win a hunt of a lifetime and a membership card.
In addition to JAKES Day events, NWTF chapters across the country host various events that engage youth in the outdoors, including mentored hunts for a variety of game species.
“If one kid stands tall about our mission, it will snowball and will help sprout the next generation of stewards of our precious resources of America,” Varnell said. “Lace-up those boots, get involved and get the community hyped up because when you see kids’ faces light up like grinning possums about winning camouflage Bibles, that is the confirmation of all the hard work, dedication and worry.”
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