Laughter and chatter traveled across the field as we walked down the dirt path toward the archery range. Director of Operations, Chris Woodward, stopped walking. “Do you hear that? That’s laughter. That’s relationship building. That’s what we’re all about,” he said.
Colorado Youth Outdoors (CYO) started 18 years ago as a small operation in Bob Houston’s barn. He is an avid outdoorsman and wanted to share his passion for outdoor sports with others by teaching youth archery, shooting and fishing - all while helping them build relationships with their parents. That small operation has since evolved to a non-profit organization serving more than 10,000 people each year through archery, spin fishing, fly fishing, shooting sports, canoeing and nature play activities.
In 2007, Louis Swift, the previous owner of Swift Ponds and also a devoted outdoorsman, gifted his 200+ acre property east of I-25 and south of Harmony Road in Fort Collins to Colorado Youth Outdoors. There are 12 ponds stocked for fishing, a five-house trap range, half-mile archery range with everything from moose to velociraptor dinosaur targets, an outdoor pavilion and an 8,500 square foot education facility.
“This isn’t a shooting range or a fishing hole. This is a place where relationships grow between youth and their parent or mentor that brings them here to CYO,” Chris explained. He has been in his position as Director of Operations for almost two years with 18 years of working with non-profits under his belt. “Our main goal right now is to continue what we’re doing with our programs, and we’re really working on growth - getting our name out, getting to know our community and gaining more support,” he said.
When the kids and adults partner to complete a task or learn a new skill, it gives them something to talk about even when the activity is over. It gives them common ground and opens the door for communication.
“My favorite part of working here at CYO is hearing the feedback from the kids and parents. They develop a special bond and derive satisfaction together and working here, we get to facilitate that,” Chris explained.
The different programs at CYO include: a 12-15 week core program for middle and high schoolers that require a parent or adult participate with each youth attending, a week-long summer camp for 4th-10th graders ending with a family barbecue on the last day, and community outreach programs where groups attend classes to learn outdoor skills, and team-building skills together. To ensure success with the programs, CYO integrates the phrases Participate, Appreciate, Communicate, and Dedicate (PACD) into the curriculum and circle every lesson back to one of these core words.
All these programs and activities are possible and successful thanks to the 40 volunteers, 20 programs instructors, and five full-time staff members. The team members are intentional with their time to help participants build relationships with each other. On top of the day-to-day activities, CYO also hosts three fundraisers throughout the year: The Maverick, a sporting clay shoot at Sylvan Dale Ranch in May, Holes & Hops, a cornhole tournament in May, and The Scoot, a barn dance with live music in September.
To learn more about Colorado Youth Outdoors, to give, or volunteer, visit their website: www.coloradoyo.org.
Colorado Youth Outdoors - building relationships through traditional outdoor recreation.