20-years ago, I was 18, and preparing to age out of the foster care system in Michigan. I had already spent several years in the system as an orphan, living between state-run orphanages and temporary foster homes. Now my time was running out. My senior year, I enlisted in the Army’s Delayed Entry Program with a Basic Training date of early July. As a 4-year ROTC student, I would graduate basic as an E–3, and excited to be assigned into the prestigious 82nd Airborne unit.
During my senior year, the relationship with my foster mom had deteriorated to the point where I was staying with friends, sleeping in cars, and crashing couches. My latest case worker, Pete Knibbe, was assigned my case through Bethany Christian Services. Pete realized quickly that my current living situation was not sustainable, and that he needed to find a suitable place to live until I left for Basic Training. What he didn’t realize was that no one wants to take in an 18-year old inner city foster kid. Even if Pete told them, “He’s a good kid…and it’s just for a few months.” After exhausting all of his leads, Pete finally had a discussion with his 8-month pregnant wife, Gayle, about me coming to stay with them until I shipped out. To them, it was a no-brainer. The Knibbe’s had offered me a place to stay while I finished out high school. And that would have been a great story if it ended there.
Shortly after arriving at the Knibbe’s, I received an offer to play baseball at local community college. Going to college was never part of my plan, but the small $500 scholarship was more than enough for me to try and get out of my military contract and become a collegiate athlete. After being stonewalled by recruiters, Pete Knibbe, put on a suit, and brought his briefcase down to the recruiting command center. Looking and acting like my attorney, he secured my release. Little did these Army personnel know, the person speaking to them was my case worker, and the open briefcase on their table was full of nothing more than case files of children assigned to him. My life story had just taken a big turn.
Now the problem became, where will I live? It was an obvious answer to the Knibbe’s who knew God was telling them I needed to become a part of their family. They offered…I accepted. Now keep in mind, they are just 10 and 11-years older than me. Gayle was 8-months pregnant with their second child, and they had my 4-inch tall case file…they knew I was going to be a handful.
Fast-forward 4 years. I graduated from a 4-year university, and shortly after married my college sweetheart. Pete and Gayle are the most amazing mom and dad I could have asked for. And now I have 3 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters, who were adopted after me. Two from Columbia with Down syndrome, and one from Ethiopia. Bet they never planned on being parents of 7.
BANGSTEEL ACTS IN FAITH
In 2013, I was giving back to Bethany Christian Services, by serving on their North Carolina board. In discussing ideas for fundraising, I had an epiphany. Why not do a long range shooting event that acts as a fundraiser for Bethany? Every time I was at the range, I spoke with people who shared my beliefs and values. I knew it was an untapped market.
So, I made a trip up to Wytheville Virginia, to meet with Dan Newberry, founder of BangSteel Long Range Training Center. I shared my vision with Dan, and it was a no-brainer for him. He felt that it was his responsibility to give back and an opportunity to be part of an amazing ministry. Dan offered to provide everything at no-cost. He said if you can bring in the people, I will take care of the rest.
Within 48-hours, I had built a website and had flyers/brochures designed and being circulated. Sniper’s Hide was a critical communication portal to spread the word. Little did Frank Galli know at the time, but the Hide was a critical part of the Guardian’s early success.
Trijicon, has been a big supporter of Bethany for years, and donated two of their scopes for the prize table.
In the span of 2 months, we filled the 30-man roster and had that many on the wait list. Somehow we attracted shooters from 11 different states, some as far west as Montana and east as New York. The match was roster was full of known and respected shooters such as Jim & Melissa Gilliland, Jon Lester and Shawn Burkholder of Hawk Hill Customs.
MELISSA AND THE BETTIN CUSTOM .338 LAPUA
Through cold-calls and emails, I was able to build a prize table valued over $16,000, with the biggest donation coming in the form of a custom .338 Lapua from Bettin Custom Guns. This was truly amazing, because Todd Bettin simply received an email from me asking if he would be interested in building a custom rifle to raffle off. I had never spoken to the Bettins, but this gentleman from Iowa responded to the calling. For all he knew, I was a scammer. But after several phone calls, we knew we were a part of something bigger than ourselves. Todd flew his entire family (Mom, dad, wife, two beautiful daughters) to Charlotte, where they saved on lodging while staying at our house. The next day we carpooled up to BangSteel where Todd would not only outshoot almost every competitors with his personal rifle (7mm Dakota), but have the privilege of giving away the custom .338 Lapua to the raffle winner. Calling off the raffle numbers, Jim Gilliland, jumped up and yelled, “Bingo!” Then began frantically searching for the ticket. While the crowed grew tense, his wife, Melissa walked forward with the winning ticket and said, “This baby is mine!”
Raffling off the Bettin Custom .338 Lapua, began an important tradition for the Guardian, where we raffle off a custom rifle at each match. We were blessed to have Shawn Burkholder donate a Hawk Hill Custom .338 Lapua for the following match.
Every donation to this event is 100% tax-deductible, because of Bethany’s 503c(3) status. This had ensure each prize table is packed with amazing items for our shooters.
This also means that shooters registrations are 100% tax-deductible, which is why the rosters for matches have filled up within hours of being announced.
2015 ASHBURY PRECISION ORDNANCE
The Guardian continues to explode in growth! Having matches now Virginia, Michigan and South Carolina, we are continuing to expand around the country.
Having Ashbury Precision Ordnance (APO) as our capital sponsor for 2015 was critical. They are donating their Tactical Competition Rifle (TCR) SuperSport in either 6.5 Creedmoor or .260 Remington to be raffled off at each match ($6,325 MSRP). Morris Peterson, President of APO, is committed to see the Guardian succeed. He has helped take the Guardian from a local match, to one spreading around the country. During SHOT, APO proudly promoted the Guardian and allowed me be part of the APO booth.
2015 SNIPERS HIDE CUP – GUARDIAN STAGE
We are honored to have a Guardian stage at this year’s Sniper’s Hide Cup. Frank Galli was amazingly generous in providing this opportunity to promote the Guardian. May 22–24, top PRS shooters will descend on Fort Collins, Colorado to compete for Top Shot. At the Guardian Stage, we will be raffling off a custom rifle. If you know Frank, you know this stage will be lots of fun…but very challenging.
For shooters: These full-day matches present unique changes to not only shoot long range, win amazing prizes, but also spend time in fellowship of people who are excited to be part of something great.
For sponsors: There are no matches that provide as much opportunity for positive press as helping orphans find forever families, while making so much business sense. As Morris Peterson said, “There is no downside to working with you.”
For volunteers and host sites: We are always looking for quality volunteers (ROs, Spotters, etc.) who want to see this ministry succeed. We are looking to expand to every state, and would love to discuss opportunities to bring the Guardian to your neighborhood.
I AM THE GUARDIAN
The focus of the Guardian Long Range Competition is Psalm 82:3: Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
There are 153 million orphaned and vulnerable children in the world that desperately need someone to show them love and compassion. There are more orphans than people that live in England, France, Canada and Australia COMBINED!
We are all Guardians of our families, communities and values. Every person that attends the Guardian matches, is asked to sign the Wall of Guardians banner. This match is an opportunity to show the world that you are the Guardian. My hope is that we will run out of space on this banner, and have to create another.
The Guardian is my way of ensuring that foster kids like me, can find their forever families. It’s creative ministry that allows others to become part of something that will outlive themselves.
I am the Guardian.
Please contact Gary Larson or visit the Guardian’s Website or Facebook to find out how to get involved in the Guardian. Link to Guardian Long Range Page