Youth Field Day
Inside the Outdoors, June 12, 2009

Combine beautiful weather, a host of activities and volunteers willing to show kids a good time, and you’ve pretty much set the stage for the recent 20th annual Youth Field Day sponsored by the Derry Rod and Gun Club in Derry Township.

Said to be the largest group ever, over 150 youths, ages three to 15, turned out along with members to enjoy the festivities, and there were many from which to choose.

One of the highlights included the introduction of two young black bears by Wildlife Conservation Supervisor Joe Stefko of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Trapped the evening before, one was taken from Laughlintown and the other, Derry Ridge.

Anesthetized, both animals were put to sleep with the same chemicals that veterinarians use on pets, so they could be displayed for the onlookers safely, studied and tattooed for future reference. Excited to see a live animal up close, children and adults put forth many questions to PGC Intern P.J. Sleber who gave a detailed presentation on the habits and the habitation of these animals. The St. Vincent grad student, who got his first masters in Environmental Education and is presently working on his second in Curriculum Instruction, awed the audience with his knowledge about these animals.

Assisting Stefko and Sleber in making sure both animals were well cared for while taken out and returned to the traps were PGC Interns West Virginia University student Iphraim Morgan and Samantha Pedder, attending Penn State University.

But the bears were just one part of the program provided by the PGC.
The other big attraction was assembling bluebird boxes.

According to Stefko, “We introduced the bluebird box kits to youngsters last year at Indian Lake, and the kids loved them. So we decided to order 1500 more kits.”

But he emphasized, “We don’t just give the kits out in packaged form. The youth have to build the bluebird boxes on sight and promise to put them up in their back yards. This way, they are making a contribution in various aspects.”

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also annually contributes to the program. Again, not only were they instrumental in seeing to it that the Dean Family return from Smithton with their collection of 15 different snakes, but also provided canoes for the members and their children to paddle about the lake.

It might be of interest to note that many youth had never touched snakes before. Thanks to Kaitlin and Ben Dean, the children’s fears were put to rest as some kids actually held the slithering residents around their necks or in their hands.

Canoeing was one activity to which both youngsters and parents looked forward. PFBC Environmental Interpretative Technician Jim Delesandro not only detailed proper usage of the paddles, but was very strict in emphasizing safety while out on the waters.

But there were so many activities that excited the youth and kept the parents moving from the early hours of the morning throughout the day. They included shooting muzzleloader, 22 caliber and shotgun rifles, learning the basics and participating in archery, fishing for large catfish and learning about and observing discipline techniques for training such dogs as Labrador retrievers. Concerning the latter, Becky Russell and her son Joel, traveled from Rochester, PA to couple with Darryl and Sonja Cravener from Derry to prove to the onlookers that if one works daily, dogs can be trained.

Sponsors included John Bonacy, $100; Army/Navy Store, Latrobe, binoculars; Paul J. Volkmann, flat of nightcrawlers; Blairsville Westinghouse, ear plugs; Latrobe Shop n’ Save, discount on burger and hot dog meat; Oklahoma EMS, service; PFBC – boats; PGC, bluebird box kits, bears; and contributions from the members of the Club.

In addition, all participants received hats, T-shirts, and were treated to a great lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers and a beverage of their choice.

- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email