Ill chil­dren get dream hunts

Non­profit ex­hibit­ing at Wa­ter­fowl Fes­ti­val ful­fills dy­ing chil­dren’s out­door wishes

The Star Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — As sports­men pe­rused the hunt­ing wares and equip­ment — for both them and their pets — inside the Sports­man’s Pav­il­ion at the Wa­ter­fowl Fes­ti­val over the week­end, one ex­hibit­ing foun­da­tion tried to get the word out about its work tak­ing ter­mi­nally ill chil­dren on their dream hunt.

Hunt of a Life­time Foun­da­tion is a Penn­syl­va­ni­abased non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that takes ter­mi­nally ill chil­dren 21 and younger on a trip that foun­da­tions like the Make a Wish Foun­da­tion won’t — a hunt­ing or fish­ing ad­ven­ture.

The non­profit started in 1999 af­ter the founder’s son passed away from bouts with can­cer. Founder Tina Pat­ti­son tried to get a wish- grant­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion to take her son on his dream big game hunt, but was un­suc­cess­ful, and de­cided to start the or­ga­ni­za­tion af­ter his death. How­ever, her son’s wish was ful­filled while alive, thanks to the gen­eros­ity of an en­tire town of peo­ple in Nordegg, Canada, ac­cord­ing to the non­profit’s web­site.

“Not ev­ery kid wants to go to Dis­ney World when they get sick,” said Vicky Lauer, the north­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia am­bas­sador for Hunt of a Life­time Foun­da­tion. “There are kids born and bred into hunt­ing. That’s what their fam­i­lies do, and when that could be the last wish that a kid wants, you grant the wish.”

Lauer was ex­hibit­ing at the Hunt of a Life­time

Foun­da­tion stand inside the Sports­man’s Pav­il­ion on the Elks Lodge lawn Fri­day. She has been with the or­ga­ni­za­tion for 16 years and

said the non­profit will grant the wishes of about 1,000 kids all across the coun­try this year.

Lauer said the kids tell the or­ga­ni­za­tion what game they want to hunt, and it part­ners with a pro­fes­sional out­fit­ter, who takes them out. “We even pro­vide a

mount of their an­i­mal,” she said. The kids pay for noth­ing, in­clud­ing air­fare, lodg­ing and food, she said.

The wishes aren’t lim­ited to the United States, ei­ther, she said. The non­profit has sent kids to places like Alaska to hunt griz­zly bears, Africa for ex­otic

game, Canada for moose and New Zealand for red stag elk.

Lauer said the hunts aren’t “just about go­ing out and killing an an­i­mal, it’s about do­ing some­thing you’ve dreamed of.” Plus, “this food will sus­tain their fam­ily,” she said.

“They’re (the kids are) amaz­ing and it’s an honor to give them an op­por­tu­nity that they wouldn’t oth­er­wise,” Lauer said. “Their fam­i­lies are go­ing through a lot, with med­i­cal bills and trans­porta­tion to treat­ments. This gives them, the kids and the fam­ily, a chance to live a nor­mal life for just a few days.”

“It has touched me tremen­dously. Peo­ple thank us a lot for what we do, but I thank them (the kids) for what they do for me,” she said, tear­ing up.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ jbol­l_s­tar­dem.

PHOTO BY JOSH BOLLINGER

A view of the ta­ble ex­hibit for the Hunt of a Life­time Foun­da­tion, a Penn­syl­va­nia-based non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that takes ter­mi­nally ill chil­dren on their dream hunts.

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