While hurrying along a busy aisle at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, one exhibitor banner among many caught my eye. Compared to those around it, the banner was relatively small and subtle, but the message was huge.
In colors reminiscent of those found on a coloring book page were the words “Kids Clays.” And below those the phrase “Benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities.”
The word clays obviously referred to the clay targets used in popular shotgun shooting sports, but I couldn’t help but wonder just how the flying targets might benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities. That organization provides a home away from home for families of critically ill children whose treatment requires a lengthy hospital stay.
Enter Glenn Lubeznik, founder of the Kids Clays Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Indiana. He said the group raises money for Ronald McDonald House Charities through shooting sports, mainly sporting clay tournaments. In 2018, he said, the organization hosted 23 tournaments and raised $1.6 million.
In the 20 years Kids Clays has been in existence, the foundation has raised almost $20 million. And it has done so by providing recreational shooters with an opportunity to test their skills against other shotgun enthusiasts.
Lubeznik, also a McDonald’s owner and operator from Indiana, has served on boards and as president of the Ronald McDonald House near University of Chicago Hospital. He got the idea for Kids and Clays while participating in a Ducks Unlimited fundraising shoot shortly after he took up sporting clays.
“I’m looking around, and they’ve got all these people, and they’re raising money,” he said. “I went home, and I said to my wife, ‘Would you help me do a sporting clay event?’ I think we can maybe make $2,000 or $3,000 for our Ronald house.”
Lubeznik’s wife needed a little convincing, but they then began organizing their first sporting clay shoot. They started by seeking support from the firearms industry. Winchester donated merchandise after touring the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago.
There were 128 shooters at their first sporting clay tournament, which generated $15,800 for the Ronald McDonald House.
Winchester continued its support for Lubeznik’s second tournament, and other companies followed. That event attracted 221 participants and made $58,000.
Soon Winchester and other organizations wanted to host tournaments for the Ronald McDonald Houses in their communities. And with Lubeznik’s help, they were off and shooting and raising money.
“One thing led to another, and we’re going to have 24 events this year,” Lubeznik said. “From California to New York, and north to south, and we’re loving it. We have a board of 30 people now.”
Lubeznik said as many as 30 percent of participants in Kids Clays tournaments are first-time shooters. So these events are a good place to take friends and family members who never have shot before.
The Kids Clays Foundation doesn’t actually put on the shooting events. It teaches the local Ronald McDonald House to host an event and provides it with ammunition and merchandise.
Lubeznik said he’s interested in holding a shoot in Las Vegas
“We’ve been wanting to do that for a long time,” he said. “Currently, we have eight Ronald McDonald House organizations on a waiting list, but we need to get the Las Vegas Ronald McDonald House to request an event here.”
When that happens, they will need shooters and sponsors. Are you ready?
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.