Eleven-year-old Ryder Smith pulled back the bow, steadied his aim and let loose an arrow.
The arrow stuck in the target — one of hundreds that hit their mark from dozens of third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders at Camano Chapel’s weekly Centershot archery program.
“It’s something fun that I always wanted to do,” Smith said. “It doesn’t have a kick, like a gun, and no noise. … It doesn’t take you long to learn, either.”
“It’s a good way to teach a life skill,” said Teresa VanSant, the Children’s Ministry director at Camano Chapel.
The first eight-week session in the fall attracted 36 kids and a handful of new volunteers. Even more participated in the second session, which concluded last week.
“We usually have mostly women who volunteer with children’s ministry, but it’s gotten more men involved,” Van Sant said.
The program — free to any third-, fourth- or fifth-grader — teaches children archery while incorporating Biblical messages.
The kids learn to build a solid foundation in order to do well at archery and grow their relationship with Christ, Van Sant said.
The kids start by learning the 11 steps to shoot an arrow. They teach kids that they won’t always hit the target in archery or in life but they learn and keep going, adjust the steps at the range and also adjust how they live their lives, she said.
“It’s amazing at how fast they pick it up,” she said. “It’s been fun watching them be excited at improving.”
Todd Simonson of Camano Island signed up as one of the volunteers last fall because of his love of the sport.
“Kids are so involved in iPads and video games that they are losing the ability to learn new skills,” said Simonson, who has a son in the program. “It teaches discipline and proper form. And once these kids start to see their arrows come together around the bullseye, they will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
The church’s next eight-week session will take place in the fall. In the meantime, plenty of kids have been asking their parents for archery equipment, Van Sant said.
“My hope to get more people involved because it’s so fun for boys and girls of any age,” she said.
Nine-year-old Sarah Crandall said she’s enjoyed learning a new skill and new Bible lessons.
“Sometimes if you catch your arm, it hurts,” she said. “But I’m so happy when I hit the target.”