A group of youngsters in Henry County recently hit their mark, in an effort to show their appreciation for a local recreational program.
Members of the 4-H Archery Club assembled at Hilsman's Droptine Archery, 655 Old Jackson Road, in McDonough, for a community-service project. The children, who take archery lessons at the site, spent the evening cleaning the area and repairing targets, in preparation for their new season.
Robert Foster, coach of the club, which he started two years ago, said the recent work by his pupils was designed to thank the site's owner, Robert Hilsman, for supporting the 4-H program.
"He allows us to shoot here for no charge, so we wanted to give something back to him," said Foster, 42. "So, we're rebuilding his targets, cleaning up the range after he's had some trees cut, and on the side, will be some training with the kids, too."
Coaches at the event demonstrated how to repair targets, and aim bows. The group rotated shifts between learning techniques, and range cleaning.
"We shoot these targets all season, but also, people pay to shoot here from the community," Foster said. "This is a way we can pay him back for his generosity. He's been great for us."
There are 45 youngsters in the archery club, who range from fourth-graders to high school upperclassmen. The number of participants has more than doubled since last year, said Foster.
"We were shocked ... at how many signed up," he said. "We had to cap it, because we don't have enough coaches to take on new members. For every 10 archers, you have to have at least one qualified coach, or someone that's been through a screening process."
Many of the newest participants in the club, this year, are girls. One of them, 10-year-old Emily Bull, had experience as a Girl Scout.
"I like the bows and arrows, and how they're made," said Bull, a fifth-grader at Pate's Creek Elementary School. She added that one of the most important lessons a person can learn in archery is adhering to the basic rules of the activity.
"If you don't know that, then you wouldn't know what to do," said Bull. "You'd look down, and you'd shoot your foot."
Practice is the key to archery success, said Daniel Dorminy, a 16-year-old 11th-grader.
"Archery teaches accuracy, consistency, and all the important things that it takes to become extremely good at things. It's a sport that you can use to hunt, and it's a sport that you can use to defend yourself," said Dorminy.
"We're the biggest group who uses it freely, so we need to have the largest impact on repairing the targets," he added.
Maddy Willingham, 11, is in her first year in the archery club. The fifth-grader said she loves the feel of a bow and arrow in her hand. "It just feels good when you pull back the bow, and you know that you have enough power to do it," said Willingham. "I hunt with a BB gun, but I've always wanted to hunt with a bow, and see if I can get better aim, and no splinters in my fingers."
The Archery Club is part of Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education). It is designed to assist young people in personal development. Foster said the club's activities are focused on safety as a first priority.
Range owner Hilsman, 51, operates his facility for the community. The 4-H's interest in his facility creates a "win-win situation" for him and the kids, he said.
"They have a place to come out and shoot, and when arrows and archery equipment are needed, a lot of times, they'll use me," said Hilsman.
He said he was impressed by the children's willingness to clean up. "It really amazed me that they took it on to rebuild my targets," he said. "It leaves me speechless."