Kicking Bear event aims to mentor young kids

Over 200 kids participate in event at West Salem

For some kids, living without a father figure can have a lasting impact on their life, but one local event is helping connect those children with potential mentors.

It’s called Kicking Bear, and is held at the West Salem Rod and Gun Club.

It features outdoor activities such as archery, face painting, and water slides, with a goal of promoting mentorship to youth in need of guidance.

Ray Howell’s life has never been easy.

“Being bullied, and being in jail because of truancy for school, and running away from foster homes, it was a bad life,” Howell said.

But it all changed with the help of an unlikely mentor.

“It was a social worker, and he said, ‘Ray, you promise me you won’t run away from your foster home again, I’m going to take you hunting and fishing with my boys and me, and I’m going to find you a better home,'” Howell said.

That’s when Kicking Bear was born.

“We’re going to pull kids off the streets. Kids just like I was, bring them here and tear it up and have the time of their life,” Howell said.

It’s a day full of target practice, sliding, and fun.

“We invite every kid. Whoever wants to come here, its wide open and they are welcome,” Howell said.

Kids at the event say it’s an afternoon full of excitement.

“Going down the slip and slide and having fun,” said Elijah Briske.

“I think it’s special that people get to come here and it’s for free,” said Layla Gates.

When all the fun is said and done, it’s a chance to talk to the children about their future.

“We’re going to let them know, that no matter what their troubles are in life, that God has a purpose for them, and that purpose is for good,” Howell said.

It’s a message of fun and hope that he hopes will continue to spread.

“The neat thing is that is all the volunteers are here, mentors and people that come here to be a part of this to get the kids off the street,” Howell said. “It’s absolutely awesome.”

The Howell family has similar Kicking Bear events in 30 states.

Saturday was the 17th year of the Kicking Bear event in the area.