72 young shooters have spent every waking moment since Saturday at Camp Perrry’s CMP Smallbore Rifle Range.
“We have kids here from 17 different states, from California to New Jersey and from Washington state to Florida,” Chief Administrative Office Vickie Evans told NRAblog. To participate in the program, shooters must be older than 12 and younger than 20.
Beginning Saturday, July 24, the “campers,” as Vickie calls them, have been in moving groups of 4. One coach is matched to each group based on a variety of factors, including skill level and age.
“We’ve got some folks learning the basics, while others are ready to compete for next year’s National Championship,” volunteer rifle coach Bob Beard explained.
Evans and her husband, Russell, have led this event for 23 years. The Hubbard, Ohio couple says it’s their way of giving back.
“Our son started shooting at a local club,” Russell explains. “In 1986 we brought him to the junior camp here at Perry, and found out you could volunteer to help.”
Then 12 years old, the young Evans was inspired by his coach, who was stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy. “On our drive home from Perry in 1986, our son told us he knew where he was going to college,” Russell said with a smile. He reached for his wallet. “He graduated in 1996,” he said, showing us a worn picture of a smiling young man in dress whites, “and he’s now a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy.”
“I kind of feel we owe the sport something,” the retired project engineer said.
Russell was quick to point out the help the camp receives from the NRA, the Civilian Marksmanship Program, or CMP, and the Ohio National Guard. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” he said. He gestured down range. “The Ohio National Guard has been sending us a few soldiers each day to help out. They’re assisting the younger shooters with their targets right now.” Guardsmen also serve as medics for the camp.
“One third of our shooters will come back for a second or third year of camp, until they’re confident to compete on the big line,” Russell said. Does he reap any benefits from his involvement with these young people? Of course. “Camp makes me a more positive person,” he said, “because it’s hard to teach people to be positive without making sure you’re living a positive life.”
The Evanses also serve the state of Ohio as Civilian Marksmanship Program State Directors.
Russell wants us to meet a “camper-turned-coach” as he said it.
Josh Fabijance first attended Camp Perry’s junior smallbore camp when he was 10 years old. “My first experience here was a big change,” said the Niles, Ohio native. “All elements are here – snow, dust, rain, fog – anything you can think of.”
Now 23 and a student at the University of Akron, Fabijance is active on the campus rifle team. “It’s a lot more competitive than most people would believe,” he said. “Shooting at the national or Olympic level really is like a job. A lot is expected of you.”
Fabijance is here at the 2010 smallbore camp to help other students learn the basics of competition, and he said he will be back next year, and for as many years after that as possible. He will be pursuing a career in the U.S. military.
Next, we meet a first-time camper from Washington State. Marisca Mozeleski, age 18, is a rising senior at a high school near Seattle.
“I didn’t start shooting, really, until July 2009,” she said. “My brothers and I were introduced to rifle shooting in 2007, and I’m the one who stuck with it. They both play lacrosse.”
What has Marisca learned so far? “I’ve learned a lot about the natural point of aim,” she explained, demonstrating with her arm. She practices at a range in her hometown as much as possible, and says her time here at Camp Perry reminds her of that. “Back home, I go to the range with my coach, he says ‘here are your goals,’ and I do my best to hit them,” she said.
“The coaches at camp love to be here,” she continued with a smile. “They are absolutely enthusiastic to do anything they can to help us as competitive shooters.”
NRA Match Director H.Q. Moody agrees. At a recent staff meeting, he asked each volunteer and staff member to take a few moments to visit the event. "This is truly one of the most prestigious programs at Camp Perry," he said. "These kids are our future."
Does Russell Evans think any of these young people, this year’s crop of campers, have a shot at bringing home the national championship?
“All 72 of ‘em,” he said.