Event gives kids a taste of the great outdoors

MARIETTA – Almost 50 children learned about the great outdoors on Saturday during the third annual Outdoor Youth Day at Marietta’s Buckeye Park.

Marietta residents Brad and Megan Offenberger brought their daughter Savannah, 7, and son Samuel, 6, to the event for the first time as a fun family activity.

“I think it is good for the kids to get outside and see the fun they can have when there aren’t movies and games,” said Brad Offenberger. “This (event) gives kids the opportunity to do activities they normally wouldn’t do.”

Marietta Civitan Club president Dave Grimes said 49 children from around the area were registered and participated in Saturday’s program. The number of participants was significantly increased from last year while the first year saw about 60 children at the park, testing their skills.

“Many of these kids had never shot a BB gun, tried archery or even been fishing before, so this is a great event to help kids learn about the world around them,” Grimes said.

For the first time, the BB gun shooting range was available for the kids to practice their skill with Todd Stewart with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife helping the kids with their aim.

“It’s good for kids to get out and try new things and the skills they learn here can be used throughout their lives,” Stewart said.

The event was free to all children ages 6 to 15 years and was offered as a way to get kids away from computers and televisions and enjoying the outdoors, according to Susie Joyce, recreation clerk for the City of Marietta.

A highlight of the event each year is wildlife and forestry specialist Dean Sinclair from the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District.

While being a forestry expert, Sinclair also spends a great deal of time taking care of many animal nuisance calls in the area and is familiar with the majority of the wild animals area children have likely seen in their yards.

“By getting out in the community and talking to kids during events like these, we are showing them there are a lot of fun things to do away from the house,” Sinclair said. “I grew up hunting and fishing and as my daughter got older, I noticed kids not wanting to spend time outside playing, so I looked into ways to get them excited and interested in being outside.

“Programs like the annual Youth Outdoor Day and others put on by the ODNR help kids experience the wildlife around their homes and the river rather than reading about it in a book or watching it in videos,” Sinclair added.

During his presentation, Sinclair showed items from his “skulls and furs trunk,” which gave the kids in the audience a chance to look at skulls and furs, as well as rubber molds of animal tracks in an effort to give the children the opportunity to see what the wildlife around them looks like.

The annual Outdoor Youth Day grew out of a suggestion from Eric Bear, wildlife officer for the ODNR, said Connie Grimes with the Pioneer Ladies Civitan group.

“This is something the men of our Civitan group do for the kids in the community,” said Connie Grimes. “It gives them the opportunity to not only help them, but also teach them life skills they can enjoy for years to come.”

Attendees received T-shirts, a string backpack and other small items that included educational activities.