As a kid growing up in Elyria, I read Don Miller’s “Afloat and Afield” column with relish. His words in the pages of the Chronicle Telegram spread out on my living room floor took me into another world, way beyond what little nature I knew in the woods behind Spring Valley Elementary. When Dad took us camping my sisters would cling to the comforts of semi-civilized world at the campsite, but I was always off somewhere; exploring the woods, fishing for the early morning trout, or stalking the critters of the wild. Too many Saturdays I had spent playing baseball on the block, riding my bike up and down the side streets, sitting in front of the tube watching Wide-Wide World of Sports. I was an outdoorsman from the start, and it was in part due to the weekly inspiration of Don Miller’s Afloat & Afield. Never in a hundred years did I think I’d one day have his job.
Creating that spark for the outdoors in a child can change a kid’s life. Don Miller brought that world to me in writing, and to many other kids first hand by his role as President of the Lorain County Ely Chapter of the Izaak Walton League. In a time when the only connection some folks had to nature was smoking it, Miller spent tireless hours bringing people into a real kinship with the outdoors and defending the ecology and reputation of our North Coast.
Although Don has shuffled off to that happy hunting ground up above, the Izaak Walton League carries on his memory with the annual Don Miller Memorial Fishing Derby, held just last weekend at its clubhouse grounds on Foster Road in Penfield Township. Despite the morning cold and damp, nearly two hundred people attended the free event, designed to get kids involved in the outdoor skills of fishing and archery.
True to kid form, the weather mattered not one bit and hot dogs off the grill chased away the visceral cares of the day. All around the shoreline the C-T Outdoors Page staff was treated to the sights and sounds of youthful excitement and cheer as, one after another, participants pulled bluegill, catfish, smallmouth bass and trout from the lake. Ely chapter President Rob Woods called it the highlight of the club’s year and his son was even more delighted at his luck in having caught the first fish to win tickets to a Cleveland Indians game!
I think Miller would have truly been smiling down on this event as I found kids who came with parents, uncles, friends and neighbors, many of them from farther away places in Cuyahoga County, although the majority being from the Lorain County area. The work of this club to engage and recruit a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts is clearly an ongoing success. I spoke with club’s shooting sports coordinator Rich Hardway at the archery range where he’s preparing to conduct a Youth Archery League this summer, for ages 9 and up. Beginning June 2nd and every Sunday afternoon at 1 kids can meet to learn and practice their skills with the bow and arrow. Be sure to give Rich a call by May 30th and register at 440-453-04994. It’s the first year for the league, but if all goes well Rich says he’s planning to conduct a second series in the fall too.
Readers may recall the recent Outdoors Page about Turkey Shoots. If you’re wanting to try your hand at the sport but have been putting it off, this weekend is the final Sunday shoot of the season. You can contact the Lorain County Ely Chapter of the Izaak Walton League via their Facebook page or call (440) 647-5074.
Having fun in the great outdoors is all about the kids, and the kid in all of us. Get outdoors!