Kai Krumwiede, the son of longtime Ducks Unlimited member and former Director of Development Layne Krumwiede, says it was around a campfire that he was issued a challenge to create Montana's first DU high school chapter. "It started at a hunting camp in Big Horn County," Kai recalls. "We were sitting around with a bunch of DU guys and they pretty much dared me to do it."
Kai rose to the challenge during his sophomore year, when he founded the Central Montana Varsity chapter at Fergus High School. Joined by two dozen of his fellow high school students, Kai reached out to DU Regional Director Barry Allen for guidance on how to start a chapter and the logistics of event planning.
"The first meeting we talked about DU and what they do," Kai says. "A lot of people said, 'I don't hunt,' or, 'I don't hunt ducks.' I told them, 'It's not about hunting, it's about conservation.'"
With DU's mission fresh in their minds, the committee members started planning a dinner and auction event for mid-December 2014. Kai quickly emerged as the group's leader, running committee meetings and tasking his fellow volunteers with selling tickets, gathering auction items, ordering DU merchandise, and organizing the raffle.
When the day of the event arrived, Barry says the students worked most of the afternoon setting up the event, and they ultimately ran all the evening's festivities. "What's really neat about an event like this is that it's different from our normal fundraising banquets," Barry explains. "It gets kids involved in volunteerism and helps them find something they are passionate about."
The chapter's inaugural event drew around 100 people and raised more than $7,000 for DU's mission. In the months since, Kai and Barry have seen growing interest in the Varsity program, not only in Lewistown but across Montana. "I think that if more kids see [our success], then maybe they will start a chapter, too," Kai says. "And being in Montana, where we have lots of wetlands, maybe other people in other areas will want to do the same thing. If we work hard and keep more people coming, we have a good chance of growing every year." -Katie Shane