Taking Aim at Childhood Hunger

By Beacon Staff

The circumstances that triggered the “Clays for Kids” event occurred in December, when Clint Walker was delivering holiday food boxes to local families on behalf of the Bigfork Rotary Club. It was early on a cold morning but every family he visited was up and waiting for the food. Upon taking a second box into one mother, he heard her young daughter ask her, “Mommy, is there any milk in there?”

Thinking about the array of breakfast options his own children have every morning, he was struck by the disparity.

“It really hit me hard,” Walker, the editor in chief of Flathead Living magazine, said. “I got to the end of the driveway and I just totally lost it.”

There were, of course, other factors. As a child, Walker lived with his siblings in motels during hard times. A recent segment on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” reported that child poverty is increasing nationally, and profoundly impacting the development of those children. Recent Census statistics indicate two in five children in the Flathead are homeless or living in poverty.

Walker joins the effort to combat these trends, and turn them around, on July 23 in Polson at the Clays for Kids fundraiser, a massive shooting event where the money raised goes toward the existing nonprofits and agencies in the Flathead fighting childhood hunger and homelessness.

“More people have slipped from middle class to below poverty these last couple of years,” Walker said. “Even if I raise $100,000, it’s just a drop in the bucket.”

The event will be held at Big Sky Sporting Clays and will include everything from shooting competitions to exhibition shooting to a silent auction. He emphasizes that he is only one of six members of Clays for Kids’ board of directors, and that their organization’s aim is to add to the work combating homelessness and hunger long-standing nonprofits in the Flathead have been carrying on for decades.

But the unique nature of this fundraiser is attracting major attention. It has already raised $36,000, with about 75 shooters signed up so far.

“Everybody does a golf tournament, everybody does a wine tasting,” Walker said. “I thought, let’s shake it up a little bit.”

Scott Robertson, a world-record holder sponsored by Beretta will be on hand to perform a shooting exhibition.

And Huntley Ritter, a Kalispell resident who hosts the Ducks Unlimited series on the Outdoor Channel, canceled plans for a TV shoot when he learned of the opportunity to participate in the Clays for Kids event.

“I think it takes a group of people like them to organize something and so there’s a critical focus point for people in need,” Ritter said. “We have to help each other, especially in our own county.”

Ritter recalled a friend – a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger – who, after a business deal went badly, ended up sleeping on Ritter’s floor with nowhere else to go. Though he eventually got back on his feet, he needed Ritter’s help through that period.

“It was very impactful to me,” Ritter said. “It could happen to anybody.”

Funds raised by Clays for Kids will go to the Rotary Foundation, and be tax deductible. From there, Walker said, the board will distribute the funds based on grant requests, though donors can also specify where they want their gift to go.

And as for the shooting, the setting in Polson is spectacular: “It’s like golf with a gun, basically,” Walker said. With new shooter training, safety orientation and shotguns available for those who need them, the Clays for Kids event is open to experienced shooters and those new to the sport. Anyone interested in simply watching is welcome to purchase a spectator pass as well.

“The shots that we fire are going to echo across the country with this event,” Walker said. “We’ve got high hopes.”

For more information on registering for the event or giving, visit: http://www.claysforkids.org/.

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