This time of year is serious business for the Missouri River Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited, a national nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the betterment of the white-tailed deer and its environment.
The group’s annual banquet is fast approaching in mid-August, and the dozen or so men who work on the organizing committee are busy locking down the donations and auction items that will help raise money for veteran and youth programs across Franklin County and beyond.
They have been meeting monthly at the Washington KC Hall, where the banquet will be held Saturday, Aug. 18. They are motivated by their own love of the outdoors and the fun they have working together, but more so by the chance Whitetails Unlimited provides them to give back to their community.
“I’ve always wanted to give back,” said Dan Walsh, a committee member who has been involved with the local chapter from the beginning. “Could I have given this community $200,000 by myself over the last 10 years? I couldn’t. But I could with these people.
“So it’s a way for me to give back large to the community that we all care about, and we’re having fun doing it,” Walsh remarked.
The other committee members shook their heads in agreement.
“It’s a team effort,” said Mike Copeland.
“It has to be,” added Doug Kampschroeder, “because this time of year, the amount of work that goes into this banquet is insane.”
If this year’s banquet is anything like recent years, the chapter expects to raise between $50,000 and $60,000 net profit — and half of that money will stay right here in this area, directly supporting youth and veteran programs and activities, said Kampschroeder, proudly.
The other half of the money will go to the national organization to support the same types of programs and activities on a national level.
Back in 2009, the Missouri River Chapter’s banquet was the No. 1 Whitetails Unlimited banquet in the state — a position it has held ever since.
Nationally, the chapter’s banquet ranked No. 2 in the country, a position it held onto for several years before dropping to No. 3 in the nation, said Kampschroeder, noting the top two chapters in the country are currently both in Louisiana.
That credential is a great source of pride for the Missouri River Chapter committee, but they don’t get hung up on it.
“We don’t care about the standings,” said Kampschroeder. “It doesn’t get us anything, but it is neat to be able to say.”
They know that their ability to raise so much money for youth and veteran programs is a direct result of the support they receive from the community.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Missouri River Chapter and its banquet. It was Larry Thompson who got the chapter started here.
“He found we get to keep 50 percent of our net proceeds on a local level, and as long as any of the projects we do fall under the mission statement of Whitetails Unlimited on a national level, we can do whatever we want with those proceeds,” said Kampschroeder.
Support for the group was strong from the beginning. After just one year, they had already raised nearly $30,000 for youth and veteran programs, as well as first responders and law enforcement, which included donations to:
Franklin County Honor Flight, a National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at St. Clair and Washington, Share the Harvest, Franklin County BackStoppers, Truth in the Outdoors Wildlife Expo, M/1 Rifles for Veterans and more.
Over the years, those donations have continued and many more have been added.
And although the name Whitetails Unlimited makes people think of shooting sports, some of the chapter’s biggest financial undertakings have nothing to do with hunting. The large canopy cover over several swings at the All-Abilities Park near Lions Lake in Washington is a perfect example.
The Missouri River Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited paid for the canopy. It was the biggest single donation the chapter has ever made, said Kampschroeder.
“And we were tickled to do it,” he said, smiling.
Support for Youth
Another youth project that the group is proud of is the funding it has provided to start National Archery in the Schools Programs (NASP) in public and private schools in St. Clair, Washington, Sullivan and St. Albans.
“We give (the schools) a donation to help get the program started, and then we provide a kind of maintenance donation every year,” said Kampschroeder. “If they need new equipment, we usually buy that for them.”
The chapter also sponsors a Youth on Target nights at a local archery range so that youth can come in to shoot for free.
Every year the chapter awards two, sometimes three, $500 scholarships to students seeking careers in conservation, agriculture, an outdoor-related field or law enforcement.
The chapter also donates to the Washington Jaycees BB gun team. It has supported the Earth’s Classroom NRCE High School Program, Jakes Day events, the Washington youth trap teams and the Washington Junior Football League.
New this year, the Missouri River Chapter plans to sponsor the Blue Ribbon Hog Auction at the Washington Town & Country Fair.
“Those kids are involved in 4-H and FFA, so they show their hog, and instead of selling it, we are donating the money they would get, and then they donate that money to an organization of their choice,” said Kampschroeder. “The meat is donated to charity too, but the money the kids get also gets donated, so it’s an outreach to a lot of different organizations.”
Support for Veterans, Law Enforcement
The chapter donates to several veteran and law enforcement programs, but one of the biggest is the M1 for Vets Program offered through the Owensville Gun Club “to recognize the service and sacrifice of combat wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The M1 Garand Rifle is the gun that was used in World War II by the U.S. troops, Kampschroeder explained.
The Owensville Gun Club has a team that shoots the M1 Garands competitively, and the vets can join that team if they want to.
“From our standpoint, it is about giving back to someone who gave to our country. They need to be recognized for that,” said Kampschroeder. “That’s our goal.”
This year’s recipient was U.S. Army Sgt. Brett Workman, Washington. He was nominated by the Missouri Rivers Chapter.
Sgt. Workman was presented an M1 Garand, and so were Gold Star parents Jeff and Paula White in memory of their son, U.S. Army Spec. Jeffrey L. White, Jr. Both rifles were donated by the Missouri River Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited.
The chapter has donated to the JROTC program at Washington High School, the Sons of the American Legion and the Veterans’ Thrift Shop. The group also has provided night vision equipment for the Missouri Conservation Department to help in catching poachers.
Banquet Is Full to Capacity
The Missouri River Chapter banquet next month will be full to capacity with 465 tickets sold.
“We cannot fit another table or chair in there with all of the raffle and auction items that we have,” said Kampschroeder.
People will come in from all over the country to attend, members said, noting there are usually several people who are famous in the world of hunting, as well as some sports celebrities in attendance. There is one Hall of Fame baseball player who comes every year, they said, and a few Rams football players have come in the past.
There are auction and raffle items for ladies and for kids too. There are usually as many as 50 kids who attend the banquet each year, members said.
Anyone who would like to be involved in helping to plan the banquet each year is welcome to get involved. Joining the committee is often done by word of mouth.
Committee members stressed that this is not just a men’s group. Women are involved and helping with the work each year.
“I consider all of our wives committee members,” one member said. “They may not come to the meetings but they all contribute.”
The Missouri River Chapter Whitetails Unlimited Banquet Committee includes:
Garrin Rott; and
For more information or to make a donation, people can call Doug Kampschroeder at 636-262-0710.