Suzanne Collins'"The Hunger Games" trilogy has sold millions of copies in the United States since the first book was published in 2008. Now, with the release of the blockbuster movie of the same name, the series has achieved even more: It has influenced kids to spend more time outside.
Two weekends ago, 13 young "Hunger Games" fans braved the rain to learn about archery. The Saturday event, which was hosted by the Thurmont Regional Library and run by members of the Tuscarora Archers, allowed the teenagers to learn how to shoot a bow.
"[It] was a neat experience. It wasn't the first time I have taught kids to shoot, but being related to 'The Hunger Games' there was sort of a different spin on it," said Sophia Strachan, a 13-year-old with the Tuscarora Archers. "One of the smaller kids I was helping said something to the effect of 'I think I could survive the hunger games, but I'm not sure I could shoot someone.' "
Sophia and her teammates helped teach "Hunger Games" enthusiasts about bow safety and choosing the right equipment before allowing them to shoot at targets behind the library.
"I have really never thought of my bow as a weapon before. ... Several people at school who know I shoot have asked me if I am as good as Katniss. ... The movie has given archery a pretty cool image," she said.
Katniss Everdeen, the main character of "The Hunger Games," is a skilled archer and outdoorswoman. The movie showcases her skills with a bow while she is in the woods hunting and while she is competing in the deadly hunger games, a battle in which 24 teenagers must fight until there is only one survivor.
"We couldn't keep the ['Hunger Games'] books on the shelves," said Claire Bush, who coordinated the event for the library.
Thurmont Regional Library has several teen events each month, but Bush was particularly impressed with the turnout of the archery event.
"It poured rain that Saturday, [but] we had 13 people show up," she said. "I think the movies are really bringing a lot of attention to archery."
Rick Lushbaugh, president of Tuscarora Archers, was happy to be involved with the event.
"The libraries came to us [because] … we have a strong youth program at our club," he said.
"The Hunger Games" shoot allowed young fans to send arrows flying at target bags for about two hours. Many of the attendees were teenagers around the same age as 16-year-old Katniss.
"It went really well," said Nicholas Van-Derpoel, 15, who has been shooting for three years and is a fan of "The Hunger Games." "There were a good number of kids there. It seemed like they all had fun."
One of them was Cayie Chu, a 12-year-old who has been shooting for six years. "The books inspired me to keep on trying at archery so I could become a better archer like Katniss," Cayie said. "I absolutely loved the books."
Jerry Shuck, the coach of the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) program with Tuscarora Archers, says most of his young archers are motivated by "The Hunger Games." "The books sparked their interest," he said.
Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who played Katniss in the movie, also had a JOAD instructor while she was preparing for the role. That coach, Khatuna Lorig, is a four-time Olympian (she competed for the Unified team in 1992, for Georgia in 1996 and 2000, and for the United States in 2008) who hopes to represent the United States again this year in London.
The connection could draw attention to archery at the Summer Games.
"Archery is a great sport. … We're glad that there seems to be more interest in the sport since the movie came out," said Millette Miller, whose 15-year-old son, Robert, has been involved in archery for six years.
Alyssa Everett, captain of the Tuscarora Archers' JOAD team, starting shooting well before the books were published and is thankful for the popularity the series has brought to her sport.
"To see a whole new generation take up a bow is very exciting," she said.
In Baltimore County, Ted Light runs a program called Oriole Archers that practices in Timonium. He has started to see an increase in applications.
"One of my friends warned me that a lot of young girls would be coming out," he said. Most of the people on his waiting list are girls.
"Usually there's a ratio of about 3-1, men to women in archery," Light said. He tries to keep the ratio a little more even in his club. Now, with the large number of young girls signing up, he won't have much difficulty getting the numbers to line up.
For information about clubs in the state, go to the Maryland Archery Association's website, md-archery.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun