by James Coulter
Wayne Faulkner and his staff from Faulkner Tree Service have been attending the Victory Ridge Clay Shoot for the past four to five years. This year, they had the honor of winning first place as the highest-scoring team.
Faulkner loved being able to win, but he loves being able to participate nonetheless. He loves venturing out into the great outdoors to shoot clay, and he loves the camraderie among his fellow shooters. He especially appreciates being able to do all this to support the Lake Wales school for special needs students.
“As going out to help these kids, it is just something we look forward to ever year,” Faulkner said. “This money goes to this school, and you have to be an extra-ordinary teacher or administrator to do this for these children with Autism. It is great, hopefully next year we can have more shooters and raise more money.”
Victory Ridge Academy has been hosting their annual clay shoot to raise funds for their school and programs. As a non-profit organization and member of Polk County Charter Schools, the school helps service the needs of special needs children.
According to its website, the school’s mission is “to provide children and adolescents with exceptional needs intensive, collaborative classroom-based educational and therapeutic interventions to promote independence, academic success and community inclusion for all students.”
The annual fundraiser was hosted at the FFA Training Center in Haines City. Teams gathered around 8 a.m. to venture out into the field and take turns shooting clay. They then returned to the main hall to enjoy a barbecue dinner, partake in a raffle drawing, and hear the winners of the event during the award ceremony.
A new school bus, which was displayed at the event, had been purchased using funds from a previous fundraiser. The proceeds from this year’s fundraiser have not yet been designated, but they will inevitably be used to finance the school and its services.
“We host this event every year. It helps raise funds for the extra things our children need. We enjoyed a lot of support,” said Vic Story, Chairman for the Charitable Fund for Victory Ridge.
He loves the event because, “you get to see a lot of people that you know, and you know that they are supporting you mission there. And that is what I enjoy that: the camraderie with the people.”
Victory Ridge Academy currently serves 275 students with 150 staff. The majority of our students and families are served on-site, with only a small percent being taught virtually. Fundraisers like this help them to offer their quality education even during these uncertain times, explained Steve Whittaker, Executive Director for Victory Ridge.
“To make a difference with those kids, we have to be there and hands on five days a week,” he said. “For us to make progress, we are hands on, we have to make sure our staff are prepared ahead of time, and we appreciate so much of our families and what they have to do. It is the least we can do.”
The clay shoot remains successful due to its many sponsors. This year’s event proved especially successful with 74 people attending, even in spite of these uncertain times, explained Donna Nobles, Central Office Manager for Victory Ridge.
“We are very excited to see how things end up, and I think we overall have given all that is going on had a very good turnout,” she said.