By Lars Dalseide | October 4 2012 07:37

Texas teen spends time with rifles on the range and volunteering at the South Texas Cancer Care Center

Katie Bridges from Texas at the NRA Smallbore Rifle Championships in Camp Perry At the ripe of age of 17, Katie Bridges of Marble Falls, Texas is a grizzled veteran of the shooting game. A veteran with many an accolade.

At the NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships, for example, she's already experienced success as a member of the Drew Cup Team as well as by winning the Eleanor Dunn and the Stark Memorial trophies. But it's not just about shooting with Katie. Well, a lot of it is, but there is more. A whole lot more.

Bridges builds on experience to center her shot

As a smallbore shooter, Katie is blessed. With her skill, with her determination and with a plethora of matches. In addition to the National Smallbore Championships in Camp Perry, there are plenty of opportunities to shoot down in Texas. 

"There are a lot of monthly matches back home," Bridges smiled. "I like to shoot in the Horn Frog at TCU, the Borderline Cup — that's air rifle — Junior Olympic qualifiers, Indoor State Champions and the State Prone. State prong, that was a good one."

So good that she set a personal best at the last State Prone Championship. Firing for an unconventional 1600, Katie managed to score a 1598 with metallic sights. Enough to make her believe.

"Thought I would shoot a 1600 once I put on the scope. Turn around and fired a 1597. Lesson is … keep on the iron sights."

Time away from the Rifle Range

Between high school and rifle practice, it's difficult for Katie to find time for something else. Regular teenage rec leagues, such as basketball or soccer, just don't fit into the schedule.

"They'd expect me to practice," she said. "That conflicts with my shooting practice. I'd have to skip basketball, they'd punish me with running laps and I can't have that. Why get it started."

What she does make time for is FFA. Formerly known as the Future Farmer of America, FFA was founded farmers back in 1928. To quote from their website, "their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught us that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting-- it's a science, it's a business and it's an art." It also allows her to explore one of her other passions — bugs.

"They have an entomology competition that's a lot of fun. I might even do that in college next year. Entomology, geology, paleontology — going to major in one of those."

Katie Bridges walks with US Paralympian Josh Olsen of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit

Operation Cover a Friend draws praise from the State of Texas

The one thing that never suffers Katie's schedule is Operation Cover a Friend. Inspired by her father's time in the Cancer Care Center of South Texas, Operation Cover a Friend helps provide comfort and care for those going through the same complications as her father. Basically, she reminds the patients that there are people out there who care.

"I remember how my father was always cold during his chemo treatments," she explained. "I get about fifty tote bags and fill them with blankets, pillows and all sorts of comfort items including lip balm and pass them out on the week of Christmas. Last year, I bought a Team USA flag from the Olympic Training Center and had all the current and past athletes sign it along with the staff. We raffled off the flag and used that money to purchase food and drinks for the patients during the week."

Word of her deeds eventually found their way to Austin, Texas. That's when State Representative Harvey Hilderbran introduced a resolution recognizing Katie's program. It read:

WHEREAS, Katie Bridges of Marble Falls has made a positive difference in her community with the creation of the Operation Cover a Friend initiative; and 

WHEREAS, Having lost her father to cancer in 2008, Katie Bridges decided to organize a service project that would bring cheer and comfort to those undergoing treatment for various cancers; with the assistance of her community, she arranged to provide blankets to keep patients warm while they received chemotherapy and also assembled care packages for them as an additional token of care and support; and

WHEREAS, The initiative has been sponsored by the Marble Falls FFA, and Ms. Bridges has received assistance from her fellow Marble Falls High School students, the Hill Country Interfaith Quilters, and the Highland Lakes Service League; together, participants have contributed or pledged enough materials to comfort more than 50 patients at the Cancer Care Center of South Texas in Marble Falls; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Bridges is also an exceptional sharpshooter who has qualified for the USA Shooting National Junior Olympic Championships; in all of her endeavors, she has enjoyed the love and support of her mother, Rhonda Bridges; and

WHEREAS, This caring young woman's selfless efforts in behalf of those fighting cancer have benefited numerous Texans, and the leadership and dedication she has demonstrated are an inspiration to all who know her; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 82nd Texas Legislature hereby commend Katie Bridges for creating the Operation Cover a Friend initiative and extend to her sincere best wishes for continued success in her important work; and, be it further RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Ms. Bridges as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.

Next year she heads off to college. Maybe in Texas, maybe somewhere else. No matter where she lands, however, Katie promised that two things that are for certain. Her college will have a rifle team and she will always have time for Operation Cover a Friend.

Katie Bridges takes aim during NRA's 2012 Smallbore Championships in Ohio

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