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Grant will help keep L-E shooting program on target

Second-year program one of only 19 in country to benefit from Midway USA, RMEF funding

Posted: December 27, 2012 2:46 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2012 5:00 a.m.

When you are a club program which depends on sponsors and, sometimes, money out of your own pocket in order to survive, every dollar and/or small bit of spare change can mean that you live to see another practice or competition.
When the second-year Lugoff-Elgin High School sporting clays team received a $10,000 grant from a cooperative pairing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Larry and Brenda Potterfield of Midway USA and the Midway USA Foundation, it meant the young men and women of that squad will be able to go out and shoot at more targets and in tournaments for years to come.
It’s not that $10,000 doesn’t go as far as it used to but, in this case, the Demons will spread the wealth, so to speak. The six-figure payday has already been put in the bank and will be used, a bit at a time, for this and other L-E sporting clays teams to follow.
The endowment will generate about $500 per year in perpetuity. The team may use the funds for ammunition, targets or any other equipment which the program and its coaches deem as necessary, but may not draw out more than five percent of the program’s account balance. In addition to the newly received stipend, the Demon shooters already had some $7,000 in the bank, thanks to the generosity of area businesses and individuals.
L-E was one of only 19 recipients from across the nation to receive funding from the RMEF. Allen Trapp, who is one of the team’s volunteer coaches, along with Kip Wolfe, C. Ray Miles, Steve Berry, Ken McClendon and Ruben Jordan, said the national endowment is a feather in the program’s hat as well as being a tip of the cap to the local sponsors who, a year ago, helped get the fledgling program off the ground.
“We survive on local sponsorships,” Trapp said. “We were able to add two extra coaches so that we can field 18 kids; six squads of three shooters each. Then, we can add some alternates. When you take 18 kids to an event, that’s $35 a shooter, $25 in membership fee … you’re talking about thousands of dollars to get us through a season. The grant is designed so that, in one year, you don’t go out and spend $10,000 on buying things.
“To be one of only 19 programs across the country to receive this ($10,000 endowment) … that’s strong.  And for us to be just in our second year, this is a great honor.”
As members of the South Carolina Youth Shooting Foundation, the L-E squad was eligible to receive the grant which is presented by the RMEF and the Midway USA Foundation. Candidates receiving the funding are selected from among organized shooting teams, including high school, college and university programs.
Elgin resident and RMEF member Bobby Riley was the person whom Wolfe credited with getting the ball rolling on the application process for the award. Riley has a granddaughter on the L-E shooting team and took a keen interest in helping secure the funding.
Earlier this fall, RMEF Regional Director for the Carolinas and Virginia, Chris Croy, came to the West Wateree on behalf of RMEF President and CEO David Allen to present the $10,000 check to the team and coaches.
“Conservation depends on strong participation in hunting and shooting sports,” Allen said, “which together generate most of the revenue for wildlife habitat, management, law enforcement and research in America. We’re proud to support this heritage through endowments to encourage and support students with a budding interest in sporting lifestyles.”
Trapp said the funding from a national endowment meshes with that the program receives here at home. The combination of the two will ensure the long term success of the L-E sporting clays squad.
“Our thought process has always been, ‘How do we keep it going?’” Trapp said of the program. “Now that it’s going, you don’t want it to fall apart. We’re making sure everything we do is set up to keep this team going.
“Now, we have a guaranteed funding source, so that regardless of what they can go out and collect, there is always going to be some money for this program. We’re folding these kids and folding these coaches in so when it’s time for us (the current coaching staff) to move on, the team is always going to be around.
“This is something that we’ll look back on and be able to say, ‘Remember when we started that with those kids.’ It’s going to be great.”
Make no mistake about it, Trapp and Wolfe, who were the program’s first two coaches, are hardly ready to call it quits in the foreseeable future. As for the present, the Demons are off to a flying start to the 2012-13 season.
L-E opened its second campaign with a strong showing in the first event of the season, held at Harris Springs in Cross Hill, on Dec. 8. In that event, the team came home with their first trophy in the short history of the program as, in the JV Advance division, Demon shooters Andrew Edwards (89 of 100 targets), Steve Berry (83) and Hunter Worthington (71)  came in third with a 243 score after shooting at a combined 300 targets.
After having missed last season’s first two tourneys, due to the team’s paperwork still being complete before being approved, the Demons will compete in all six events this season including an April 20 tournament at Hermitage Farm Shooting Sports in Camden.
This year, at the team’s organizational meeting, some 40 students came out to learn about the squad. That group has since been whittled to 25, which includes alternates. But, Wolfe said, the difference between last year and this one are light worlds apart, especially with a six-person coaching staff to supervise the shooters while allowing more students to be a part of the program.
“It’s been a lot smoother. We’ve had a coaching staff available for the kids and it has gone a lot smoother,” Wolfe said. The coaches also held two weekends of tryouts with the adults taking notes on each shooter and discussing not only how well the students shot, but also, how they acted.
“We took notes on the kids to see if they had a good attitude,” Wolfe said. “Shooting is wonderful, but their attitude is very important if they want to be on the team.”
Attitude, responsibility and maintaining good grades were the stipulations put on the program before L-E principal Tommy Gladden gave his approval to the formation of the squad in the fall of 2011. Those goals were met by last year’s squad and, this year’s group is no different.
On the shooting range, the Demons have improved their scores from last season. And, after taking second in the public school division at last year’s state championship tournament, L-E has its sights set on bringing home the biggest piece of hardware the event hands out when the event rolls around in May.
“We want the state championship this year; we don’t want runner-up, again,” Trapp said of the team’s goal.
“We know where we want to be. We know what it’s going to take. We take these squad scores from our tournaments and then, we know what it is going to take to put us into contention for where we ultimately want to, which is winning that state championship. We use that as a guide to show us where we have to tighten up here or, get better there.”
Both Trapp and Wolfe like the makeup of this year’s team, the quality of the shooters and the focus they have shown on and off the course. That, they said, continues to make their job that much better, not to mention, enjoyable.
“I’m impressed with these kids. They’re a real joy to be around and to watch as they go through the program,” Trapp said. “When it’s all said and done, with all the work that you put into it and all the sacrifices that you have to make to get it all rolling and then, to be able to watch all the kids participating in it, then you realize, ‘OK. It is worth it.’
“It’s been absolutely fantastic.”

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