What was once a mystery, a well kept secret in the marine industry, has developed into a community service organization known as the Kenneth Kirchman Foundation.
The origin of Lake X dates back to the mid 1950s when the founder of Mercury Marine, Carl Kiekhaefer, purchased the property that contained the 1,400-acre lake publicly known as Lake Conlin. He intended to use his purchase as a private and secret test facility for Mercury outboards. Desiring a sense of security and secrecy Mr. Kiekhaefer named the bountiful track of land “Lake X.”
Fast forward to 1984 when Ken Kirchman purchased the Lake X Property from Mr. Kiekhaefer with the intent of preserving its natural beauty for use in educating the public about Florida’s natural resources and wildlife. He established a goal to keep Lake X the same as it was 100 years ago.
On the foundation website Mr. Kirchman is quoted as saying, “Lake X is a very special place. The natural beauty and serenity cannot be duplicated. Only nature can produce such settings.” It takes only one visit to Lake X to confirm what Kirchman was describing and understand why his goal, as carried out by the foundation, is an important one that reaches even further than Kirchman may have imagined.
Recently some of the fishing industry’s biggest names gathered with media representatives on the shores of Lake X for an event called Tackle-X. Booths were set up, tackle was demonstrated, lunch was served, and a good time was had by all.
Greg Fenico, Bass Pro Shops – Orlando, was on hand to support the event. As it turns out, Greg has more than a passing interest in the work of the foundation. He described his participation in a program that is spearheaded by the Osceola Sheriffs Department, led by Sheriff Bob Hansell.
“The Kids Adventure Camp brings about 250 kids through the camp every year,” said Fenico. It is a summer camp aimed at promoting outdoor activities among kids.
This is one heck of a facility. There are boarding facilities for the kids and all kinds of outdoor educational programs. I have been privileged to be involved in fishing tournaments conducted by the Teen Sports Fishing Association and also in turkey hunts staged for the kids.”
Fenico explained that the turkey hunts were staged for either disabled or sick children. “When we started the hunting adventures with the kids it had been 35 years since anyone had hunted wild turkey out here. The kids gained eligibility though the foundation and I did the guiding. What a fantastic time we had. It is absolutely special. All the kids, dads or grand parents that come out with the kids were able to get birds. One-hundred-percent harvest!”
Fenico finished by commending the Tackle-X organizers for helping bring attention to the programs now carried out at Lake X by the Kirchman Foundation. “This is a special place out here, 10,000 acres of private, beautiful Florida. It is a pristine wildlife area unlike anything else in the state of Florida, right here at Lake X.”
The partnership with the Osceola Sheriffs Office, has proven to be a successful and beneficial addition to the foundations outreach. Deputy Sherriff James Froelich is one of the instructors at the Adventure Camps.
Froelich explained the camp as kind of a vacation for the parents of some of the participants. “The adventure camp is a one week long camp for kids,” said Froelich. “They are dropped off on Monday and stay overnight until Friday. It is expressly designed for kids that are considered at risk.”
He explained that at risk kids are not really bad kids, or even kids in gangs. “We are not talking about those kids at all. We are talking about kids that are shy, kids that are on that cuff. They are in the process of deciding whether they are going to go in a positive direction or a negative direction. We want to build their confidence and give them that intuition that says hey, I can take whatever life throws at me.”
As examples of building that intuition he mentioned a ropes course and a wilderness course. “We have our ropes course, which is designed to build their confidence. Our wilderness course is designed to help kids work on their team building skills so they know they are able to depend on other people in life.”
The program uses school resource officers to identify at risk kids for the program. The application process is aimed at kids 10 to 14 years of age, because studies have shown them to be the most likely age needing a little help. The cost to attend a weeklong camp is only $25. The Sheriffs office or the Kenneth Kirchman Foundation absorbs the remainder of the cost.
The camps accommodate 32 kids per week, for 8 weeks, reaching over 250 kids through the summer camps. “We are trying to help them with whatever is going on in their lives and hopefully move them in a positive direction,” commented Froelich.
Sheriff Hansell who was on hand at Tackle-X to address the gathering. He first thanked Tackle-X organizers and participants for helping to shed some new light on the activities of the Kirchman Foundation. Those activities include nature walks, guided tours, classroom speakers, artifact collection, a ropes course, kayaking, air rifles, archery and various team-building games.
Sheriff Hansell explained that the Adventure Camps were meant for at risk youth selected from area schools. He summed up his passion for the camps by saying, “These aren’t bad kids, just troubled kids. It is my desire to have this contact with them through the camps before they become clients of mine.”
If you would like to learn more about the Kirchman Foundation and/or support them in their work you can visit their website at http://www.kirchmanfoundation.org/Kirchman_Foundation.html.