Lumpkin County Sheriff's deputies will be side by side with county kids in Yahoola Creek Park as part of their annual Youth Day sporting event on Saturday, Jan. 19.
For the past 15 or so years, the sheriff's office and local youth get together to learn about gun safety techniques, enjoy food and fellowship, and promote friendly competition and good sportsmanship.
"The reason we really strive for the youth of this community, the younger children, is because they are our future, and I want to do everything in my power to help them in the right direction," said Sheriff Stacy Jarrard.
Jarrard said in addition to a time of fellowship and the cook-out, deputies will educate kids on the proper, safe way to handle guns.
"We give them quite a few instructions about gun safety as we're there with them because we don't want anyone to be injured or anything of that nature. But we also teach them the proper handling of guns, if they come in contact with them," said Jarrard, adding that kids who'd rather just enjoy the food and fellowship are welcome to join them as well.
"The biggest thing is just to educate them about guns. A firearm does not hurt anyone, it's the person behind the firearm that is mishandling it... is what injures someone. So we always teach them good muzzle control, proper ways to carry them, and if you're nervous about it, you don't need to touch it, that you always need to let your parents know if you come into contact before you just pick it up."
A big skeet shooting competition rounds out the day, complete with prizes.
"We usually have a gun to be won in the shooting contest," said Jarrard. "A lot of times a young lady wins the gun. The young women, they tend to listen to instruction better than the boys do... and a lot of times they win the gun!"
Jarrard said the prize for his deputies is the opportunity to interact in a fun way with community children.
"It's just great to bond with them so they feel comfortable to be around law enforcement and know we're there for them as a public service, because that's what our job is."
Youth Day is Saturday, January 19, and is open to any Lumpkin County or area resident under the age of 18. The event is free, but registration is encouraged.
Jarrard encouraged anyone who wished to participate to arrive at Yahoola Creek Park ahead of the 8 a.m. starting time.