July 2018
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Hitting the Bull’s-eye

 

Eva Stuckey nocks her arrow before taking her stance. Students are taught to aim and keep their eyes on the target.

Sarah Butterworth is the 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent in Mobile County. Three years ago, Butterworth was searching for something to engage more students. She decided to try an archery program. The sport required very little equipment, and no child had to be an expert to participate. It seemed a perfect fit for this urban area. Archery would also teach life skills, build confidence and help to create lasting friendships – goals 4-H embraces.

Butterworth found so much interest in the sport that she started a club, which met at the county office. The members came from all over Mobile County and included public and private school students, as well as home-schoolers. So many came that Butterworth had to open a second club so archers could have enough shooting time. Volunteers also stepped forward and trained to become leaders.

In fall 2017, a home-schooling cooperative started its own club. They, too, had so much interest they had to form two groups.

In just three years, four archery clubs were active.

From the beginning, Butterworth realized that most students did not have archery equipment. She and Agent Assistant Denise Anderson applied for a grant from the Friends of the National Rifle Association. They also used 4-H funds and a $5 member donation for arrows and other supplies that might be needed.

Sarah Butterworth, left, helps Eva set up for her turn. Eva has cerebral palsy and uses her canes during shoots.

 

"Archery is like a dance," Butterworth said. "We have to learn the fundamentals first such as how to hold the bow and how to look at the targets. In our clubs, we keep it light and fun. We learn, but we enjoy ourselves."

The Straight Arrow Club continues to expand. More adults have trained as leaders, and enthusiasm is high. Even though the teams are not yet interested in going to the state level, they do like regional shoots, involving friendly competitions with clubs from Baldwin County.

One of the original members of the club was Jeremy Orso, a fourth-grader at McDavid-Jones Elementary School.

When Jeremy’s mother brought him to class, his sister Eva Stuckey came along, too. Stuckey has cerebral palsy and uses her canes, but she would sit in the stands, encouraging the team and cheering them on. For two years, she watched the other archers. In Fall 2017, however, she made an important decision: She wanted to join in and learn to shoot.

"When she told me that she wanted to try, we were excited," Butterworth explained. "We weren’t sure how we could make it work, but we found a way!"

For archery, either Butterworth or Anderson walks Stuckey to the shooting line. She sits in a chair at her station until it’s her time to shoot. When she rises, she balances on the arm of one of the sponsors. Then she nocks her arrow and shoots from a 10-meter distance. Other club members retrieve her arrows.

 

Jeremy Orso, Eva’s brother, retrieves her arrows and helps her set up to shoot. Other club members also retrieve her arrows and help in other ways.

"She has natural talent," Butterworth said. "She likes it, and she’s good at shooting. We all get so excited when she shoots."

Stuckey is quick to praise her teammates, especially Orso.

"My brother has his own bow, and he’s really good," she proudly said. "He helps me with the ordinary stuff. He carries things for me, because it’s hard with my canes."

Orso is just as proud of Stuckey.

"She’s a good shot. She doesn’t like the 3-D shots like I do, but she can hit the bull’s-eye as often as I can," he smiled.

"Nothing stops Eva," Anderson added. "She’s a great shot, and all the other kids encourage her so much."

Stuckey’s courage has changed many attitudes. Even when her arrows missed the target, she kept on trying … looking at the target and never giving up.

Her teammates have been quick to accept her as a valued team member. They feel inspired by her.

A simple desire to engage more 4-H students turned into something greater than Sarah Butterworth could have ever imagined. Yes, her students learned archery skills. However when the Straight Arrow Club launched their arrows of acceptance, compassion and kindness, they really hit the bull’s-eye!

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..