WATERFORD — Two high school seniors turned their passion for firearms and the military into a fundraiser Saturday.

For their senior project at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, Ryan Bolduc, 18, and Aaron Tremblay, 17, organized Rifles for Heroes, a shooting competition held at the Waterford Fish & Game Association. It benefited the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine, a division of the Warrior Legacy Foundation.

Twenty-five teens and adults entered the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. competition, which raised $1,572, Carlene Tremblay, Aaron’s mother, said via Facebook.

“It was just a great way to give back, especially for a senior project,” Aaron Tremblay said.

After the competition, Waterford Fish & Game member Vernon Vincent, a World War II and Korean War veteran, joined Bolduc and Tremblay in presenting the money to Pam Payeur, executive director of the Wounded Heroes Program in Maine.

Bolduc and Aaron Tremblay are best friends who have been in school together since kindergarten. For as long as either could recall, they’ve wanted to serve their country in the military and are avid shooters. Bolduc taught Tremblay how to shoot and handle firearms.

Several in Bolduc’s family and relatives are veterans. His brothers, Nick Bolduc and Waleed Hamza, are on active duty. Nick is in the Montana National Guard and Hamza, who just returned from Afghanistan, is with the 82nd Airborne.

Tremblay and Ryan Bolduc also have been involved in the Law Enforcement program at Oxford Hills Technical School and the Auburn Police Department Regional Explorer Post No. 333 for several years.

Bolduc said they got the idea to hold a shooting competition for their senior project after spending a day at the Waterford Fish & Game shooting range where Bolduc is a member.

They returned to the range and pitched the idea at a meeting. One member suggested donating the money raised to help wounded soldiers, Bolduc said.

“The senior project has to benefit the community and ourselves and we have to learn from it,” he said. “Neither one of us has ever done anything like this. A shooting competition is definitely a great learning experience. It’s the only time school ever lets us play with guns.”

They emailed Wounded Heroes and Wounded Warriors. Wounded Heroes responded the next day, and that’s who they chose.

“They’ve been really good,” Tremblay said. “They helped us with everything. Whatever we needed help with, (Payeur) was there to help us out.”

“They put on this event; they took the initiative,” Payeur said of the boys. “They wanted to put on this event for our program, for our wounded military. Anyone who needs help is going to benefit from this event.”

Tremblay credited Payeur with contacting Cabela’s for donations of products for raffles. Additionally, Tremblay and Bolduc landed many sponsors and donors, although Bolduc said several reached out on their own after learning who the event would benefit.

“The community has been really helpful,” Tremblay said. “I’ve been surprised by how helpful they’ve been.”

Waterford Fish & Game safety officers monitored the competition and conducted safety briefings.

Shooters paid $10 each to enter the timed competition and fired five bullets for each of three positions: standing, sitting and lying on the ground at 50 and 100 yards. Categories were Center-Fire or Rim-Fire, Optics or Iron Sights, Semi-Automatic or Manual (Bolt, Pump or Lever Action).

Now that the event is over and graduation is nigh, Bolduc will follow his childhood dream. Last August, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to be a combat engineer.

Tremblay can’t follow his childhood dream of joining the U.S. Navy because he had to have eye surgery. He said he learned he had keratoconus, a degenerative eye disorder in his right eye. So instead of enlisting last August, he underwent a successful cornea transplant. That makes him ineligible for the military and, perhaps, law enforcement, he said.

“Finding a new dream, it was hard,” Carlene Tremblay said. “So he will watch his friend go off into the military and stand behind him.”

Her son also had to learn how to aim with his left eye while shooting.

Tremblay said he has been accepted into the University of Maine at Machias where he will pursue a degree in environmental recreation management.

Bolduc’s mother, Jacquelyn Fanning, and Carlene Tremblay helped out at the event. Neither Fanning nor Carlene Tremblay were surprised that the boys wanted to hold a benefit shooting competition in the hunting community.

“In their generation, they really haven’t known a time without war,” Fanning said. “You know, the boys have deep values and they have deep hearts.”

“It was a wonderful effort and it brought our community out,” Carlene Tremblay said.

“It’s nice to see kids doing something like this. It’s awesome!” said Bob Baker, vice president of Waterford Fish & Game and a firearms and safety instructor.

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