Outdoor Heritage Education Center becomes first organizational supporter of School of Outdoor Sports

Outdoor Heritage Education Center is the historic first organizational supporter of fellow nonprofit School of Outdoor Sports. Representatives of the School accepted a check for $1,000 from OHEC Student Intern, Rachel LaBarbera.

“This is a big day for the School of Outdoor Sports,” said Mark Strand, President and Founder. “We cannot serve our mission without funding.”

Outdoor Heritage Education Center Intern Rachel LaBarbera (second from left) and President Mark LaBarbera (far left) present a $1,000 check to School of Outdoor Sports President Mark Strand (second from right) and CEO Todd Siebell (far right). On Feb. 21, 2010, OHEC became the first organizational supporter of the new nonprofit School.

The School promises to help reverse the trend of declining participation in fishing, hunting, and shooting, said OHEC President Mark LaBarbera.

“We all know that participation numbers are trending down,” he said, “and we’re searching for answers. This school will be providing a key service that is badly needed.”

School of Outdoor Sports just launched (January, 2010), and will take time to fully develop its intended lesson roster, stressed CEO Todd Siebell.

“The steep learning curve is what prevents so many beginners from finding a solid connection with these sports right away,” Siebell said. “We cater to all beginners, young and old, and teach them what they need to know to find success in the outdoors–to catch fish on purpose, to create shooting opportunities while hunting, to hit what they aim at when shooting.”

The School was founded on the principle that all beginners should experience success early on, and that they need ongoing help or it’s unlikely they will become lifelong participants.

“It was built for today’s realities,” said Strand. “In any beginner’s life, it’s less likely that the old system is intact–where your dad, grandpa, uncle, or trusted family friend took you under wing and taught you how to fish, hunt, or shoot. Population is increasing, which introduces new hurdles. Modern lifestyles are so hectic that time and energy for these traditional outdoor sports get squeezed out.”

The School of Outdoor Sports is the beginnings of a new system, “where you don’t need to know anybody ahead of time to get started right,” said Siebell.

Mark LaBarbera, who has served on the Board of Governors for National Shooting Sports Foundation, Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance, Tread Lightly, and other groups, noted several features of the School that motivated his group to contribute financially.

“First, these folks have accomplished what the outdoor industry has wanted for years,” said LaBarbera, who now runs ML & Associates consultancy. “They built the site, hooked up the servers, created the first series of instructional video lessons, and went live with an online outdoor school. They did it while others are still talking about the need to launch such a recruitment and retention tool.

“Second, they are opening it up to supporters and partners, so students can receive the lessons free of charge. These are newcomers that we have wanted to recruit into hunting, fishing, and shooting sports.

“Third, they are creating a national clearinghouse for mentors and students. And fourth, they stay with beginners every step of the way. Instructors are available to answer all follow-up questions and help see that beginners take regular outings to develop their skills. They are going to match up young beginners with mentors, through alliances with existing mentoring groups.”

The School, said Siebell, is extremely grateful to OHEC for becoming the first organizational supporter. “It takes vision to see what this is all about,” Siebell said. “Mark LaBarbera has an amazing depth of experience and a passion for preserving the outdoor traditions. We’re proud to be working with OHEC on this extremely important initiative.”

School of Outdoor Sports is open (free) for students now, at www.learnoutdoorsports.org.

About School of Outdoor Sports

Developed to mesh with existing efforts to increase participation in the traditional outdoor sports of fishing, hunting, and shooting, nonprofit School of Outdoor Sports is dedicated to helping beginners of all ages become lifelong participants. Founded by Mark Strand in February, 2007, in Woodbury, Minnesota, SOS carries out its mission by first inviting beginners of all ages to discover these great outdoor traditions. Then, beginners are taught ‘most of what they’ll ever need to know’ in their chosen subjects. All student questions are answered individually. Students requesting help finding adult mentors are matched up with mentoring organizations in their area. The result is a steady flow of new, lifelong anglers, hunters, and shooters, eventually reversing the trend of declining participation. For more, go to www.learnoutdoorsports.org.

Organizations interested in partnering with SOS may contact Mark Strand at mstrand@learnoutdoorsports.org.

About Outdoor Heritage Education Center

Like its logo with hidden eagle, fish, and wolf, there are more good things to the charitable nonprofit OHEC than first meets the eye. OHEC’s mission is to increase the public’s understanding of, and appreciation for, the environment, natural resources and professional fish and wildlife management, including related activities like hunting and fishing. OHEC works locally and nationally. It sponsors its annual youth fishing derby in Shakopee, Minnesota, where it was founded by Mark LaBarbera in 1998. It created Touch of the Wild traveling, hands-on wildlife education exhibit that youngsters and adults walk through when it comes to their community; and FUNofaGUN mobile airgun unit that has safely introduced thousands of youngsters to the shooting sports. For more information, contact ohecinfo@peoplepc.com.

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