Just like most of you, I have been a hunter and outdoorsman my whole life. I constantly dreamed of introducing my future children to the hunting arena, continually reflecting on my first memory in a tree stand at the tender age of 4 with my mom and dad. I wanted to pass down to my children the same traditions that my parents had emphasized.
When the time finally came and I was informed that my first born was on the way, I immediately began thinking about the memories we were going to share in the woods.
You can’t imagine what was going through my mind the day my daughter arrived… 3 months early and weighing in at 1lb 8oz… Shortly after her birth, we got the news that she had cerebral palsy. They told us she would never walk or talk.
As dreams of hunting trips went out the window, nightmares of what was to come filled my head. Uncertainty. Fear. Worry. But, as years went by, I began to realize that she was no different than any other kid, she just had some physical limitations.
When she turned 12 years old, she was able to hunt legally for the first time. So, I made it my mission to involve her as much as possible. I would take her in the woods often. We would watch deer, check trail cameras, and she would ride along as we planted food plots. But I never expected she would ever actually hunt.
It wasn’t until one day when I was reading the local newspaper and I read a story of a group that took a few kids with life threatening illness on a hunt in Northern Wisconsin. At the end of the article, it said if you have any question to call this number.
Now, my daughter doesn’t have a life threatening illness. However, she does have a life altering condition. Needless to say, I made the call.
In September 2012, she went on this hunting trip. She legally harvested a whitetail doe, buck and a black bear in less than 24 hours. That was the point when I realized that there was nothing she wasn’t capable of. With a little extra work and modifications, I had my little hunter right beside me!
This was the motivation for Shot for Hope. SFH is a non-profit I started in 2012 to raise money with fellow hunters and outdoors enthusiasts to take children with either life threatening illness or a life altering condition on a hunt of their dreams.
Through our first event, we fundraised as a third party for United Cerebral Palsy and were able to acquire $4,000 in donations. These results ensured us that we would be able to sustain our own charitable foundation.
In our second year, we decided to run our own fundraiser to send a child on a Dream Hunt! We found our first recipient, Bradley Marcello. Bradley suffers from Brittle Bone Disease and his dream was to harvest a bull Rocky Mountain Elk. We held the fundraising event in August of 2013 and it was a huge success.
The event is a one day gathering at a local hunt club. Some of the activities include 3-D archery, sporting clays, hayrides, games, raffles, and auctions. We also offer kids archery and shooting instruction. We then end the day with an amazing BBQ style meal. With the generous outpouring from the hunting community, we were able to raise enough to make Bradley’s dream come true and booked a trip to Idaho to hunt for elk!
When we arrived in Idaho, emotions ran high, same with the hunts I have taken my daughter on. The smiles, tears and laughter are all memories that I will never forget. And, as a bonus, Bradley successfully harvested a 342” bull on his first day!
I am confident now that we, together, can make many dreams come true for these young hunters. There are no boundaries.