Family Travels 9.5 Hours for USA’s Annual Family Campout in Tennessee
by Kate Nation
Steven and Sandra Soto drove from South Carolina with six of their children to attend the USA’s annual Montgomery Bell Family Campout this year after having a blast when they participated in 2019. “We moved from Tennessee to South Carolina but thought the 9.5-hour drive was worth it to come to the event, and we weren’t disappointed,” Steven said. “Being outside, fishing, getting to shoot bows—what could be better?”
In total, more than 60 youth and their families joined union volunteers for a weekend packed with conservation-related activities during the campout at Montgomery State Park in Burns, Tennessee on July 23-24.
“The fact that a family of eight traveled all that way for the event speaks volumes about the USA and its vision,” said Anthony Nicholson, international representative for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators, who volunteered at the campout and was instrumental in getting it started years ago. “They were the last family to leave, and the kids fished right up to the end. I was impressed that I didn’t see but a few phones during the entire event, and they weren’t out for long. With all the electronics today, it’s important to show children that you can have fun without an electronic device.”
The weekend included variety of engaging outdoor experiences including archery, fishing, a backpacking essentials and outdoor survival presentation as well as a snake, reptile and birds of prey exhibition led by park staff. Along with the free activities, lodging and camp meals, youth also received a free fishing rod and reel and other goodies.
Organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the event was supported by the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council and Montgomery Bell State Park.
“There were a lot of children at the campout, and you could tell they were having a great time, even when the adults were wondering how they seem unphased by the heat,” said Nashville BCTC President Eric Coons, who helped prepare meals for the campers. “Events like this are a great opportunity for union members to engage the public and let people know that we are their neighbors. We go to church with them. We coach little league teams. We are proud members of the community, and we give back.”
The Montgomery Bell campout was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities, sponsored by Humana, organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and supported by national partner Provost Umphrey Law Firm as well as USA founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.
“Camping in July in Tennessee is not for the faint of heart—it was extremely hot, but I think the union volunteers, USA staff and park staff who helped make the event possible all felt it was worthwhile to see youth and parents enjoying themselves outdoors together and experiencing nature in new ways,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell.