Most people lose themselves in the things they love. Conversely, they often find themselves there, too.
Sitting in a coffee shop in early June, 62-year-old retired military officer Ralph Kennedy talks with a smile about the sport he loves.
“I love archery. It’s a lot of fun,” says Kennedy, the outgoing President of the Kingston Archery Club. “I’ve always liked shooting and archery has the advantage of not needing a gun ownership. You can also reuse your ammunition. Gun ownership is very complex right now. Bows are simple.”
A resident of Kingston, Kennedy describes the challenges of the sport made popular by the movie franchise, The Hunger Games.
“I think the best term is a combination of focus and relaxation,” he explains. “You have to focus every shot to be good, but you can’t shoot if you’re tense. Your best shots are your most relaxed shots. To achieve that combination takes practice.”
Estimated to be more than 153 years old, the club is located in Frontenac County.
“We’re nestled between two swamps and swarming with mosquitos,” the president says lightheartedly about the inconspicuous shooting range located at the foot of Fairmount Home.
“Actually, we’d love to own the property because our future would be more secure.”
Tenants for the past 38 years, the archery club is working with the county on a formal agreement to rent a beautiful parcel of land with a glen and natural forest.
“Last year, county staff mentioned we don’t have a formal agreement in place,” Kennedy explains. “We’re currently in the process of working with the staff of the County of Frontenac to formalize that arrangement. We’ve been here for 38 years and have been doing a good job taking care of the place. That’s not going to change.”
Walking onto the range, it is clear the club has been a responsible steward. Targets are positioned safely at the end of a clearing and a well-marked path indicates a range burrowed carefully in the forest. A shed houses equipment for members and guests. The air is filled with the smell of pine needles.
“The outdoor range chews up a fair bit of the registration money,” says the president about the use of membership fees. “We also pay to use the basement of St. Luke’s Church in the winter and we pay for insurance through Archery Canada and the Ontario Association of Archers.”
Adults and junior members are asked to pay a fee for full access to the sport all year round, visitors and guests 12 and under can shoot for free. Anyone 19 and younger can participate in tournaments for free. There is also equipment for guests to use on Thursday evenings when the club meets at 6 pm for a fun hour of shooting.
“The club is a good way to give back to sport,” says Kennedy. “You meet people and you can help people who are new to archery.”
Kennedy would like to see the 75-member club continue to gain new members, especially youth.
“I’d like to see more youth involved. We’d like more people to take advantage of our range and services,” he confirms. “For us, the big thing is to promote archery in the community.”
Once consisting mostly of hunters, the club is now composed of many people interested in target shooting. Members range from children to seniors.
“We probably have 60 per cent males and 40 per cent females,” the president estimates about the ratio of men to women. “Saying that, we’re seeing a slow, but steady increase in the number of women interested in the sport.”
Poised to step down after six years of leadership, Kennedy is looking forward to attending events as a member rather than a club leader. This means he can spend more time enjoying the sport instead of helping with administrative duties.
One of the projects he helped create is the sale of handmade arrow pens. Constructed by club members from damaged arrows and salvaged/donated components, the pens are $5 each and benefit the Kingston Humane Society. In 2017, the club used the pen sales to donate $250 to charity.
Although it is just one of many accomplishments by Kennedy and the club, the president is still looking forward to stepping down to give another volunteer the opportunity and experience he enjoyed.
“My cat herding days are coming to an end,” he says with a friendly laugh about the imminent end of his presidency. “I don’t mind cat herding, but I’m getting cat herded out.”
To learn more about the Kingston Archery Club or to purchase a beautiful handcrafted arrow pen, visit http://kingstonarcheryclub.org/ or find them on Facebook. People interested in trying archery are encouraged to visit the club Thursday evenings from 6 to 7 pm. New members are welcome.