CAC administrators Janine Fortney (top, left) and Michele Newberry (right) present the award for best team to Team Carlson, which scored 332 out of 400 possible points to take the Best Team award. Team members included (second from left) Bob Mondati, Corey Sidorek, Ron Smith and Nick Rossi. Accublast Explosives of New Milford sponsored both a youth team, represented by (kneeling, below, from left) Dawson Miller of Kingsley, brothers Ayden and Adam White of New Milford, and Kaiden Warren of New Milford, and an adult team represented by (standing) Chris Hartman of Klingsley, Scott Adams of Great Bend, Chad Welch of Kingsley, and Mark Mead of Montrose.
Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(Originally published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
Prayers and good will kept the heavy showers at bay on Friday when 17 four-member teams took to the shooting course at Rock Mountain Sporting Clays near Springville for the annual Clays For Kids fundraiser. The event helps support programs at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. New participants joined seasoned shooters for the opportunity to take 100 shots each at plastic clays. While there were prizes for the best overall shooters and chances to win donated raffle prizes, most agreed that they were there for the camaraderie and to support the CAC.
CAC, which staffs an office south of Montrose, is part of Family Services Association of NEPA. Staff members strive to provide a safe, comfortable environment for children and their families when a child has experienced or is experiencing a traumatic situation. Services include forensic interviews and medical exams, mental health therapy, outreach and educations, partnering with school districts throughout the two counties.
Participation in the fundraiser has rebounded since the pandemic, but so too has the number of children with whom CAC staff have worked. “As Covid settled and kids are back under the eyes of mandated reporters, there’s been an uptick in the case load,” said CAC director Janine Fortney. “That sounds bad, but things are being noticed, and the kids are talking. That’s a good thing.” Anyone who has a direct role with children is considered a mandated reporter, updating their credentials every two years.
Fortney credited CAC advancement officer Michele Newberry for taking the reins of this year’s event, streamlining the registration process online and offering additional sponsorship levels. “We wanted to make sponsorship more accommodating to everyone,” Newberry related. She, in turn, acknowledged all of the people who make the event special, from the shooters to those who make desserts and donate raffle items. “The generosity of this small community is amazing because they know the money stays here and benefits youths in Susquehanna and Wyoming counties.”
Out on the course, (above, from left) Bill Healey, Stan Kultys, Tim Gemski, and Tom Price, Jr. were shooting for one of two teams sponsored by Trion Industries, which also covered the cost of a lunch prepared by Greenly’s Catering for the event. Healey indicated that Trion is very philanthropic, especially when it comes to helping children. DT Midstream was the event’s presenting sponsor.
There were approximately eight youths participating this year, including Ayden Sidorek of Tunkhannock, who returned to better his score from the previous year. His father, Corey, was on another team, but Ayden was shooting with his grandfather, Leon, and two men from southeastern Pennsylvania who have a cabin nearby and have been frequenting the venue for decades. “It’s for a good cause, and it’s a lot of fun,” Ayden (shooting below) stated.
Wyoming County district attorney Joe Peters spoke to the participants as they were eating lunch prior to the awards ceremony. He cited the Children’s Advocacy Center as “one of the magic tools” that law enforcement has available for officers dealing with child victims of neglect, physical assault, or sexual offenses. As a former patrolman and police chief, Peters stated, “CAC is the support system, and the rest of us literally work around the table to support the child who becomes a victim. The money raised here today goes to one of the most important things we will ever do in law enforcement.”
Dallas Police Department patrolman Corey Sidorek, echoed Peter’s remarks, saying, “The CAC is crucial to helping us investigate and prosecute crimes against children. Anything that we can do to support them, we will participate in.” Corey also credited CAC and Rock Mountain Sporting Clays owners Mike and Susan Koneski for running such a well-organized and professional event.
“I think the Children’s Advocacy Center offers an invaluable service,” said Ellen Diphillips, a retired K-6 Title 1 instructor from the Montrose School District. “That’s why I volunteer. It’s a support for the families too – not just the child.” As a faculty member, she said, “You hope you never have to report things, but I have.”
Fortney (below, left) and Michele Newberry (right) announced and distributed the prizes and awards after disclosing that it was the last year that the two of them would be directly involved with Clays For Kids, having accepted mental health counselor positions with the Lackawanna Trail and Susquehanna school districts, respectfully.
Connor Thetga (above) of Towanda and his mother, Pam Thetga (below), took top honors as High Youth and High Female shooters of the day. Bob “Doc” Mandati of Peckville’s near-perfect score of 99 garnered him the High Male award, as well as Top Shooter of the Day. Mondati was also a member of Team Carlson, which slid into first place among teams with a four-member total of 332 points. The shooting awards were crafted from slabs of stone donated by Kyle and Emily Kilmer of Kilmer Stone and engraved by Anthony Neu of Endless Mountain Stone Company.
Readers who would like to learn more about the Children’s Advocacy Center can log on to fsawv.org or call 823-5144.
Photos by Rick Hiduk
The first award of the day went to Nina Zanon of Mountaintop, named “Lowest Scorer” for a seocnd year in a row, which she accepted with a smile. She was given four boxes of ammunition for more practice.
The Sidorek family from Tunkhannock made the clay shoot a three generation affair with (from left) Corey, Ayden, and Leon participating in the fundraiser.
Clays For Kids participants were served lunch by Greenly’s Catering crew members Ryan Cywinski, Hayden Driscole, and Caitlin Wagner.