His love for the great outdoors was one of the main reasons Detroit native Mark Brown moved to Gaylord in 2014.  Mark loved the slower pace, being in nature and several “up north” hobbies, especially hunting.  Mark always appreciated that he’d had the opportunity to learn the sport and wanted more of today’s youth to have the same experience.

After Mark passed away in 2020, his friend Elese Williams wanted to honor his life and his love for hunting, so she set out to see how to get the next generation involved in the sport.

“My first stop was Jay’s Sporting Goods, and that’s when manager Mark Copeland suggested I reach out to the Otsego Community Foundation,” said Williams.

Although she had never heard of the OCF, Copeland’s (a former OCF board member) recommendation gave her enough courage to explore the idea.

“It is always special to receive phone calls like this,” stated Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director. “The conversations are tender moments, learning about the life of the person who passed, their legacy and the wish of loved ones hoping to honor them.”

After the phone call, Bensinger got to work searching for a nonprofit that might be able to help create opportunities for youth to get safely trained in hunting. The Northland Sportsmen’s Club, a family-oriented club with an emphasis on outdoor activities and conservation of natural resources, has received grants from the OCF in the past for a variety of youth hunting activities, and when Bensinger reached, out they were quick to share the Youth Basic Beginner Shotgun Trap Shooting program which ended up being the perfect fit. 

Williams established the Mark Brown Fund of the OCF, and for years to come the fund will provide youth with an opportunity to participate in a six-week program that covers firearm safety, handling procedures and the rules of trap and skeet shooting.  This class will be taught by a knowledgeable instructor, well versed in shotgun shooting, and there will be a National Rifle Association Range Safety Officer present at all times.  The program will begin as a one-on-one with a mentor until the youth is determined to be more independent.

“We are so excited about this opportunity,” says Judi Doan, an active member of the Northland Sportsmen’s Club.  “This program has been on our wish list for years and the support from the Mark Brown Fund was the impetus to make it a reality.” 

To learn more about the Northland Sportsmen’s Club, visit https://northlandsportsmensclub.org/.

To make a donation to the Mark Brown Fund of the Otsego Community Foundation, visit https://www.otsegofoundation.org/give-now/

Do you have a charitable wish? The OCF team is here to help. To make an appointment to discuss options, call 989-731-0597 or email Dana Bensinger at dana@otsegofoundation.org