USA Hosts 5th Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park
Sixty-five youths and their families joined union volunteers for a weekend packed with conservation-related activities during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 5th Annual Family Campout at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn., October 20-22.
Shifting the annual event from summer to fall this year provided comfortable weather for the campers to enjoy a variety of outdoor experiences including archery, fishing, a scavenger hunt, a campfire with s’mores, and pumpkin painting.
“The pumpkin activity was my favorite part of the weekend,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “I loved seeing all the excitement and creativity as the families painted the pumpkins together.”
Ten volunteers from the Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), Insulators International, United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Technicians Local 572, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) assisted the campers with various activities, served meals, and ensured they had a great experience.
According to Nashville BCTC President Eric Coons, Camo the Clown—a new addition—was a big hit at the event as he got kids excited with bird sounds, nature trivia, and exhibits.
“I’m always happy to support a great cause,” said Coons, who volunteered at the campout. “I also think it’s our obligation as union members to get involved in community events and projects—all our organizations were built on principles such as benevolence and civic duty.”
Along with the free activities, lodging and camp meals, youths received a fishing rod and reel to keep, and every child won a raffle prize.
Among the participating families were Steven and Sandra Soto and their children, who first attended the event in 2019 while living in Tennessee and now drive from South Carolina to continue the annual tradition.
According to Anthony Nicholson, a retired representative for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators who has volunteered at the event since it started in 2017, there are a lot of participants like the Soto family who now attend the event each year, and the new families were already asking when the event will be next year.
“I love seeing the kids having fun. When they have fun, I think the parents really enjoy it too,” Nicholson said. “I’ll volunteer at the campout as long as the USA holds it or until I physically can’t anymore.”
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.
Less than an hour drive west of Nashville, Montgomery Bell State Park has been the site of several USA Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) projects, which bring together union volunteers to tackle conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, wildlife habitats, and outdoor experiences for communities across America. In 2013, USA volunteers rebuilt a bridge at the park that was washed away in a 2010 flood, and in 2015, they restored a cabin utilized by local Boy Scouts.
“The goal of our community outreach events is to create fun, safe learning environments that enable families to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors together,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Walt Ingram. “Our annual Family Campout accomplished just that, and we thank our union volunteers as well as TWRA and park staff for helping put on a terrific event and inspire a love of the great outdoors in the participants.”
The Montgomery Bell campout was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and supported by national partner Provost Umphrey Law Firm and Humana as well as USA founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, and Buck Knives.