BUSTIN’ CLAYS FOR KIDS.

In the record-setting heat June 3rd and 4th, Western States Cat sponsored the 13th annual Idaho Ronald McDonald House (IRMH) Sporting Clays Tournament at Black Dog Clays. The soft calls of “pull!”, the scattered ‘pop’ of shotgun fire and the pungent aroma of black powder wafted through the crowd on a welcome breeze. Gentle chatter revealed friendships, strategy and humor. The sun, relentless in its pursuit to slowly roast those who dared venture beneath its glare, had long since turned the landscape around the range a tawny brown, yet below the range the fertile land yawned before participants in a carpet of green. The serene setting was such that a person standing at any one station could fall into a trance listening to the rhythmic sounds: “Pull!” Sling. Pop! “Pull!” Sling. Pop! “Pull!” Sling. Pop!

Western States has sponsored this tournament for 12 of the 13 years it’s been in existence, excepting only the first one. “This event really aligns well with our demographic,” President Tom Harris said. “Plus it works well with our geographic area — families from all over our service area use the Idaho Ronald McDonald House.” This alignment of values, interests and geography have made the partnership work for so many years, but any great cause needs great people to get behind it.

Mindy Plumlee, Executive Director for IRMH is one of those people. Having spent more than 15 years with IRMH, an organization that houses families from all over the world while their children receive medical care in Boise, she’s been involved with all 13 tournaments and she believes it’s the people that make it so successful. “The event has grown organically. People come and participate or volunteer and they love it so much, they return the next year,” she said. Indeed, it was evident walking the row of stations that people were glad to be there — volunteers genuinely happy to help, and participants giddy over the chance to bust some clays and support a worthy cause.

This year’s event saw 310 participants and 130 volunteers, of which about 80% had prior experience with the shoot. Western States was well represented in both participants and volunteers, showing a willingness to invest in the relationship with the IRMH. “From the time [Western States] signed on as the title sponsor, it’s never been about just showing up to the event,” Plumlee said. “Western States’ employees do it all — [they] serve on the planning committee, contribute auction items, help with setup, volunteer a large number of hours during the event and are even at the Ronald McDonald House after the event unloading. [Their] involvement has always been exceptional.”

The tournament got its start when a local landscaper who happened to be a sporting-clay enthusiast and supporter of the IRMH saw something in a magazine about the Kids & Clays® Foundation’s partnership with the Ronald McDonald House. He brought the article to IRMH, and eventually the first event was planned. “We expected something like 50 people to show up that first year and were hopeful to net $8,000,” Plumlee said. “Instead we ended up with well over 50 individual shooters, 5 corporate teams and raised $20,000.” From there, the event has blossomed into a two-day tournament that has generated over $700,000 for the IRMH. Plumlee was ecstatic the sporting-clay community embraced the IRMH so wholeheartedly, saying, “The tournament put us in touch with a lot of caring people that wanted to help, but didn’t feel like they had something that spoke to them. Since the event started, they’ve become huge supporters and a large number of the original people are still involved.”

Since the beginning of Western States’ involvement 12 years ago, a lot of work has gone into making the sporting-clay tournament a big success. “It took a few years to get going, but now…” Harris said, letting the sentence trail off as a smile spread across his lips while gazing over the crowd. It’s obvious he’s proud of Western States’ involvement with this charity. And well he should be. Because long after the rhythmic “Pull!” Sling. Pop! fades into a memory, there are still families needing help. To have a hand in keeping those families together should make every employee of Western States hold their head a little higher.