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A coalition of shooting sports companies including Federal Ammunition is supporting the Kids & Clays Foundation’s mission to help critically ill children and their families win the fight of their lives.
“Plain and simple, our sole purpose is to help fund Ronald McDonald Houses through shooting events,” explains Kids & Clays executive director Doug Jeanneret.
Ronald McDonald Houses provide a “home away from home” for families of children battling cancer and other life-threatening health conditions while the youngsters are receiving treatment.
“These houses are either located near or within the hospitals,” says Jeanneret. “They give families a place to stay as long as needed at nominal or zero charge. They also provide meals and as many comforts of home as possible.”
By eliminating food and lodging concerns and expenses, Ronald McDonald Houses allow families to focus their energy on battling the disease. “The last thing families need to worry about is finding a place to stay and way to pay for it,” he adds.
Keeping families together in the midst of a health crisis also boosts the odds of a positive outcome. “Families are stronger together,” says Jeanneret. “It’s a proven fact that children whose parents are near them heal 35 percent faster and better.”
Kids & Clays’ roots trace back to 1999, when Glenn and Kathy Lubeznik, McDonald’s owners in northwest Indiana, chaired the first sporting clays event benefitting the Chicago Ronald McDonald House. The event hosted 137 participants and raised more than $16,000.
Fueled by the support of new sponsors including the National Shooting Sports Foundation and National Sporting Clays Association, the event grew to over 220 participants the following year and generated nearly $60,000.
Such success encouraged Lubeznik to share his experiences with Ronald McDonald Houses around the country. He also formed the Ronald McDonald House National Sporting Clays Foundation, which was the forerunner of Kids & Clays, to which it was renamed in 2005.
Over the years, the foundation enjoyed steady growth and has been named the official charity of the National Sporting Clays Association and National Skeet Shooting Association and Amateur Trapshooting Association. It has also picked up the support of more than 40 national sponsors, including companies within and outside the shooting sports industry.
To date, the Kids & Clays foundation has generated more than $15 million for Ronald McDonald House Charities through sporting clays, trap and skeet events. “Our focus has been mainly on sporting clays, but we’re expanding into trap and skeet,” Jeanneret says.
The Kids & Clays formula is simple and effective. The organization solicits cash and merchandise donations from sponsors and donors, then donates the items to Ronald McDonald Houses, which host the fundraising shooting events and local ranges.
“We partner with individual Ronald McDonald Houses to help them put together the events,” Jeanneret explains. “We guide them through the planning process and provide a large auction package of guns and other items to sell, along with supplies including loaner guns and ammunition. Kids & Clays also offers on-site support at each event.”
Jeanneret is quick to acknowledge Federal Ammunition’s support on the ammunition front. “Federal Ammunition is a huge part of what we do, and helps thousands of families each year with their contributions,” he says. “We’re proud to have the company as a sponsor, and couldn’t do what we do without them.”
In 2017 alone, Federal Ammunition donations provided 1,750 overnight stays for families in Ronald McDonald Houses, and a total of 4,550 overnight stays throughout the history of the partnership.
Another great benefit is that the local Ronald McDonald Houses keep all net proceeds from the event. “We work very hard to help houses maximize the dollars raised,” says Jeanneret. “Additionally, every donation we receive from sponsors and donors goes to the houses. Anything we’d keep in reserve would mean fewer children being helped.”
Besides the main goal of helping children and their families, Kids & Clays introduces thousands of non-shooters to the joys of the sport, while educating them on how much the shooting sports and firearms industry contribute to conservation efforts and the national economy.
“We have a huge percentage of people attend these events who have never held a shotgun before,” says Jeaneret. “They leave talking about how much fun they had, and how they now see guns and our heritage in a far more positive light.”
Looking ahead, Jeanneret says Kids & Clays hopes to continue expanding. “Unfortunately, we just don’t have the resources right now to service all the houses that want events,” he reports. “We are supporting 21 events in 2017, but had to turn down six additional requests. That being said, our goal remains to grow and help as many houses as possible.”
Toward that end, Jeanneret invites anyone interested in learning more about Kids & Clays, volunteer opportunities, participating in an event or making a donation to visit the organization’s website, kidsandclays.com, or call (219) 874-2100.