When Sean Richardson walked into his first meeting of the Oceola Fish and Game Club a couple of years ago, there was something that jumped out at him.
In his early fourties and a father of two kids under 14, Richardson noted there were few, if any, members around his age or younger. The club’s membership—very active and involved in conservation—was almost lacking an entire generation of people: Those folks raising young families. The spin-off effect, Richardson worried, was that kids weren’t being exposed to outdoor pursuits like fishing and hunting.
“As a new member two years ago, the majority of the people that volunteered their time were senior to me and they had been doing volunteer work their whole lives,” said Richardson, now the Oceola club’s youth director. “But we almost missed a whole generation. There wasn’t a lot of people in the room my age.”
Whether it was lack of time or the ability to commit, the Oceola club, like many volunteer organizations, was being run by the same folks year in and year out. Now the club is looking to try to get that lost generation back as well as gain the interest of a new generation with an inaugural Community Youth Day this August where the club hopes kids and parents can learn about the outdoors together.
“We know kids are really interested in what’s going on around them,” said Richardson. “When we get the kids interested we get the parents interested. We’re trying to get that generation back and make sure our fish and wildlife are taken care of for generations to come.”
The Oceola club’s youth day will include many aspects of the outdoors, providing information on such things as the all-important kokanee lifecycle and an introduction to various other species that live in the Okanagan, from bugs and birds, to fish and wildlife and everything in between.
“The concept is to introduce kids to a lot of the things that we are involved with,” said Richardson. “I think it’s really important that we try to get kids involved and get them to understand what goes on and the fact that fish and wildlife just doesn’t happen. There is an incredible amount of volunteer time that goes into making sure we have healthy animal populations and a healthy environment.”
Richardson noted the Oceola club continues to work on a variety of projects and has had a huge hand in helping out things such as the Wood Lake kokanee population. Each year the Oceola club spends thousands of volunteer hours supporting the kokanee’s efforts to spawn in only one of its projects. Richardson says fishers and hunters are the main driving force behind helping sustain healthy populations of fish and wildlife rather than harming them.
One area that Richardson is hoping will attract young people is the club’s introduction of an archery program. The Oceola club has purchased archery equipment and will be offering programs under the umbrella of the National Archery in Schools Program while using local teachers from Hardcore Archery in Kelowna.
Richardson said archery is becoming very popular amongst kids and it’s a good way to get involved in a fun, outdoor activity.
“It’s extremely popular, very well run and organized and a very safe environment,” he said. “We have the equipment and kids will be able to do archery at our club but also if a local school wants to start an archery program they can use our program and equipment. We’re trying to be leaders in introducing kids to archery.”
The first ever community youth day being hosted by the Oceola Fish and Game Club will take place Aug. 18 at the Oceola Habitat Preserve on Bottom Wood Lake Road.
For more information or to RSVP, contact Sean Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.