Jaycees BB gun program participation nearly triples since its 2016 class (slideshow 2)
By Jamie Ausk Crisafulli
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
When this year’s Jaycees BB Gun Program participants began showing up for their first class at the Glendive Trap Club earlier this month, the numbers exceeded anything the program has ever seen before.
Heather Denning, one of the lead instructors for the program, said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of kids who signed up.
With 72 program participants, the number has nearly tripled in the past three years. Last year there were 54 kids in the program and in 2016 there were 27.
Why the jump in numbers?
“I don’t really know, maybe advertising and parents in town are taking gun safety seriously and signing their kids up,” Denning said.
The Jaycees BB Gun Program gives instruction to kids ages 8-15.
“Gun safety, that’s our No. 1 focus, to teach kids how to properly handle and fire a gun,” Denning said. “Shooting and the fundamentals of shooting are next.”
The program runs through the end of February, and then competition teams are chosen. The team participants are picked based on shooting and testing scores.
The Jaycees BB Gun Program has been active in the community since the 1980s. In that time there have been numerous local teams who have placed high enough at state to qualify to participate in the national program.
While not all qualifying teams go on to compete, several teams have made the trek to the competition. Last year the local BB gun team placed third at state, which gave them a spot at nationals, but Denning said that Kevin Baisch, an instructor who has been with the program for 25 years, said the team’s scores weren’t high enough to make them competitive at the national level.
With several experienced shooters in the program this year – 19 of them have competed at the state level and one has been to nationals – Denning said she is hopeful a Glendive team will qualify for nationals again.
Denning, who was once a participant in the BB gun program herself, has helped on and off with the program for numerous year. She has been with the program again for the past four years.
With the huge numbers of participants this year, Denning said they are fortunate there have been several people who have volunteered to help with the program.
Besides Denning and Baisch, others who help teach the program include: Caleb Gabbert, Tyler Gabbert, Matt Cornell, Jeff Metzger, Marek Dinges, Chad Long, Jason Gilbertson and Cliff Behner.
A handful of those instructors are also members of the Glendive Jaycees, the group that sponsors the local BB gun program.
Two teens who recently aged out of the program – Vail Gibbs and Emma Gabbert – are now instructors, a testament to how valuable they think the program is.
“The kids’ excitement for gun safety and the fact that they are learning the proper way to avoid accidents,” are the reasons Denning said she feels strongly about continuing her role supporting the program.
Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at email@example.com.