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Kids ran from shelter to shelter and parents roared with laughter as colorful foam rods flew through the air.

It was Saturday, Oct. 12, and the Nerf Gun Wars had begun. Two hourlong sessions were sponsored by West Carroll Cheer at Taneytown Memorial Park.

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“My [8-year-old] son loves Nerf guns, so we tried this in the spring,” said Stephanie Clavell, fundraising coordinator for West Carroll Cheer. “Since we had such a good time, we decided to do it again. We had maybe 30 kids in the spring, mostly our kids. We had some dads play with their sons and that was fun to watch, and we have a wide range of ages.”

Kids who participated were charged $10 per session, with siblings from the same family charged $5. The funds went toward supporting West Carroll Cheer programs.

West Carroll Cheer parents had set up about 25 shelters on the football field. Made from pallets standing on their sides, they looked a lot like duck blinds.

“They bring their own guns. We have all the darts and safety glasses for kids who don’t bring safety glasses. We prefer them, because we’d like them to not get shot in the face,” Clavell said.

Parents gathered inside and around the Snack Shack as kids poured in. Twelve-year-old Maddie Ames said her mom is treasurer of West Carroll Cheer, but Maddie is not a member.

“I did this last year and it was fun,” Maddie said. “We did boys against the girls and the girls won. The girls barely got shot, but the boys were shot like every five seconds!”

“Last time we ended up playing cops and robbers,” 9-year-old Sophie Ames said. "I mostly try to shoot at her,” she said, pointing to her sister, Maddie.

Maddie Ames, 12, sets her sights on another participant as and Emma Franks, 9, searches for bullets to reload during a Nerf gun battle organized as a fundraiser event by West Carroll Cheer, at Taneytown Memorial Park on Saturday, October 12.
Maddie Ames, 12, sets her sights on another participant as and Emma Franks, 9, searches for bullets to reload during a Nerf gun battle organized as a fundraiser event by West Carroll Cheer, at Taneytown Memorial Park on Saturday, October 12. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

A bucket of Nerf bullets ⁠— colorful foam rods with plastic tips ⁠— were brought out for the kids. As they scrambled to fill their guns, 11-year-old Myra Clinton asked, “Are we allowed to put them in our pockets?”

“Yes,” a parent answered, and the kids began stuffing said pockets.

Laughter and shouts rang out as the first session began. Small groups of kids ran from shelter to shelter while neon orange and green bullets whizzed through the air.

“Get over here! Hurry up,” someone yelled when a newcomer came onto the field.

She ran to join her buddies, squatting down behind a wooden pallet. The fun spread from the field to the concession stand, when workers making hot chocolate and coffee began shooting their adult counterparts outside the booth.

“He took my gun,” said 9-year-old Karlie Clavelle after she came off the field. Seconds later, her brother Dillon handed her one of his guns and she raced back to join her friends.

Eight-year-old Dillon was decked out in style, wearing a vest that had lines of loops that held his stash of bullets.

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“You shoot guns at people and it is so fun. Sometimes you make teams and stuff, and that’s why we like to play,” Dillon said.

Two buddies, Ava Himes and McKenna Taylor, arrived with McKenna’s big brother, Dylan Taylor, 9.

“I’m going to use the battery-powered gun," Dylan said.

Dylan Taylor, 9, of Taneytown sits behind the safety of a wooden pallet as he reloads a Nerf gun during a Nerf gun battle organized as a fundraiser event by West Carroll Cheer, at Taneytown Memorial Park on Saturday, October 12.
Dylan Taylor, 9, of Taneytown sits behind the safety of a wooden pallet as he reloads a Nerf gun during a Nerf gun battle organized as a fundraiser event by West Carroll Cheer, at Taneytown Memorial Park on Saturday, October 12. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The big battery-powered gun looked like a machine gun, shooting bullets one after another. Later in the afternoon, McKenna, 8, carried the battery-powered gun onto the field, but it was too heavy for her. When she lifted it to shoot, the front fell, the barrel hitting the ground and shooting off multiple bullets. Sitting on a picnic bench watching, her parents roared with laughter.

Eight-year-old Reid Clinton said he liked shooting, but especially at his 11-year-old sister, Myra.

She rolled her eyes.

“I shoot all the older kids … and the boys,” she said, turning to smile at her brother.

At one point, multiple kids were yelling, “We need bullets!” That compelled an adult to carry the bucket of bullets into the middle of the field, where the kids came running.

Clavell spoke of West Carroll Cheer. Governed by the West Carroll Recreation Council, it offers half- and full-season teams for aspiring cheerleaders.

“Our half-season kids cheer for [Francis Scott Key] football and compete in two competitions: CheerFest and at a cheer and dance competition in Baltimore. The half season members [do] sideline cheers for each level of football and our full-season [kids] also cheer with the half-season girls.”

Throughout the day, kids ran back and forth to dads sitting on the picnic tables, who helped them by loading guns and fixing jams. By the end of the first session, neon rods filled the field.

“Between sessions we send the kids out to pick up bullets,” parent Jenny Clinton said. “It’s like a scavenger hunt and a Nerf gun war ⁠— two for one!”

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