Tuesday nights at Salem EC Church, Lenhartsville, the church’s gymnasium is filled with flying arrows thudding into targets, accompanied by cheers and calls of encouragement. This is the scene at Centershot, the church’s new archery program, which just concluded its first session.

“It’s amazing,” instructor Lori LaPearl said of the students. “From week one, for first time shooters, they were shooting really well.”

“Really good,” her husband and fellow instructor, Frank LaPearl, confirmed. “For the most part, they started aiming for one spot on the target. Now the majority are aiming for different spots on the target.”

By learning to intentionally shift their aim, he explains, archers increase their skill level and improve their overall ability. Centershot emphasizes the building of these and similar competitive archery skills.

Fifteen students, ranging in age from 10-year-old children to 50-something adults, signed up for the first eight-week session. This necessitated opening a second time slot to accommodate all the students. The schedule for each evening remained simple: students shoot, enjoy a snack, and then meet for a short devotional time.

At first, archers aimed at plain white targets with the goal of simply hitting the large squares, situated across the gym. They also learned all-important safety rules, including a system of lines and a schedule of whistles. After a few weeks, the targets were turned to reveal basic bull’s-eye targets.

To keep things interesting, different theme nights were included. Often, this meant shooting at targets adorned with smaller, thematic objectives. At Easter time, for example, participants won different kinds of holiday candies and treats. Another week, they aimed to hit items needed to create an ice-cream sundae, from bowls and spoons to sprinkles and even the ice cream itself.

“They’ll all get the ice cream,” Lori confided as she watched the shooting that evening. “We can’t let them not have that.”

The students and instructors wore brightly-colored Centershot shirts; the students themselves were excited but orderly, often cheering for fellow archers who successfully hit a goal. A group of parents sat nearby to observe, chatting quietly. All seemed happy with the program.

“It teaches them the skills of concentration and determination,” said Jon Keenhold. His sons Gavin, a sixth grader, and Tristan, a fifth grader, love the program. “It’s awesome, a good mix of practical skills and faith.”

Heather Kline, another parent, agreed. “It’s a good life skill to learn,” she said of archery. Kline’s children Chalisse and Wyatt, in sixth and fourth grade, are both in Centershot.

“I see her learning a lot,” Justine Sampson said of her daughter, Haylee. “She can’t wait, from week to week. And she is learning that the center [of life] is Christ.”

Haylee, a sixth grade student, is eager to sign up for the next session of the program. “I love it,” she said. “It’s fun to learn about God and also to shoot the targets.”

“The center of the target is what we’re supposed to be aiming for,” added her friend, Tatieana Alston, a fifth grade student. “[The center] is supposed to be God.”

“It’s fun,” said fourth grader Gracie Long. “I like to shoot!”

Tom Krick is one of the volunteer instructors. “I like watching the kids learn the different techniques and progress from beginning to end,” he said.

The first session of Centershot at Salem ended April 28. On May 8, participants and their families gathered for a celebratory banquet.

Several events are planned for the coming months. From Tuesday, July 28, to Saturday, Aug. 1, a Centershot Mini Camp is planned during the evening hours; and fall/winter sessions will be held Sept. 29-Nov. 17, Dec. 8-Feb. 2, and Feb. 23-April 12. In addition, fundraising dinners will be held in November (Ham and String Bean) and January (Pork and Sauerkraut).

For more information on Centershot, readers may contact Salem EC Church’s office (610-562-5033, wearesalem@comcast.net). The program is open to anyone in the community, ages 10 years to senior adults, and all physical ability levels are welcome.

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