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OUTDOOR RECREATION 2020 – Group brings the outdoors to special needs children

FAYETTE TOWNHIP — George McCalvin founded the Special Needs Youth Sportsmen in 2011.

“I was watching a hunting show and they were taking special needs kids on a hunting trip,” he said of his inspiration. “I said, ‘If they can do it there, we can do it here.’ So off we went.”

McCalvin serves as president of the organization, which has a board of nine people and serves 300 different children and their families.

The group describes its mission as “Experienced sportsmen and women sharing the feeling of enjoying God’s beautiful outdoors with special needs youth while enriching their knowledge and providing training, safety education and activities.”

McCalvin said they have seen attendance at their events grow exponentially since they were founded.

“It’s gotten really good,” he said.

The organization, which is a 501c3 organization, operates from public and private donations, and received a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Everything else is donations,” McCalvin said.

They put together four events for the children each year, including two fishing events, held in the spring and fall, which take place at a pond on private land.

The pond is stocked before each event and the children usually catch 90 percent of the fish, Mike Finley, vice president of the group, told The Ironton Tribune at last fall’s event, for which nearly 100 people turned out and volunteers helped the children fish for the morning.

Fishing equipment is provided to the families, and two meals are served — a breakfast, followed by a lunch cooked from that day’s catch.

Other events organized by the group include a pheasant hunt and a deer hunt.

McCalvin said there is no charge to the families, who come from all over, other than the hunting license and tags for the deer hunt.

“Otherwise, it doesn’t cost anything,” he said.

For the fishing event, families typically meet up on a parking lot in South Point and follow a caravan to the site. There is no need to register in advance or pay dues of any kind.

McCalvin said the group’s next event is the spring fishing event, tentatively set for June 5.

He said plans may have to be modified, due to restrictions on crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they will announce any changes or rescheduling on the group’s Facebook page and website.

For more information in the group and its activities or to donate to their efforts, visit http://www.specialneedsyouth.org.