The sporting goods retailer, which began in 1923 in Chicago and has since opened branches in Canada and China, set July 22 as its official Make a Difference Day, where employees shut their company doors for the day and give back within the counties where their stores are located.
“This event started out seven years ago and it’s all about Maurice employees taking a day and doing something charitable to give back to our communities,” said Southeast Senior Operations Manager William Cramer. “We were figuring out what exactly we wanted to do in our community and I thought ‘Maurice is the biggest family owned and operated sporting goods distributor in the world, so why don’t we utilize our products and take kids fishing?’”
Employees serve as guides for the day, providing fishing equipment and lunch.
During the first event in 2008, the company took 67 children and their family members fishing.
Cramer said participation has grown significantly each year.
“Last year we had about 500 people at this event so it has really grown, changed and gotten bigger and better,” Cramer said. “We’ve had Henry County Special Olympics athletes that have participated, local day cares, Union Grove Gladiators and many more children and families each year.”
But, one thing hasn’t changed since the beginning of the event — the company’s partnership with Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center at 100 Collins Road in Locust Grove.
Built in 1999, the outdoor center is a wetland enhancement and protection corridor created to improve and protect existing wildlife habitats while also providing an avenue for public education.
It includes a fishing reservoir, raised wooden boardwalks, trails and outdoor classrooms.
Reservoir and Land Manager Chuck McCarter said events like Make a Difference Day are a big part of the reservoir’s function for the county.
“We brainstormed each year on ways to give back and get the community involved and eventually the function of the reservoir evolved into events like this,” he said.