Kids Hunting For a Cure hosts successful first event
By: Rob Somerville
My good friend, and fellow outdoor writer, Gil Lackey asked me to share this heartwarming holiday tale of hunters helping others. I bet it will bring out the big kid in all of you.
By GIL LACKEY
Utility vehicles lined the dusty road leading to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds check-in station. Moms and Dads swelled with pride. Dozens of volunteers took their first breaks of the weekend to bask in their own giddiness. Crowds with cameras swarmed to dish out “attaboys.” Camo-clad children grinned and grunted, as they struggled to prop up their truck bed trophies. There were to be no subtle, magazine-quality, deer harvest photos. Tongues were hanging out, hair was disheveled, and blood streaked across faces. The deer had dangling tongues, messy hair, and bloody faces, too.
Such was the scene at the climax of the Kids Hunting For a Cure (KHFAC) inaugural event in Fayetteville as the sun set on Oct. 27.
“I’ve never been more humbled than that night when all those kids came in with all those deer. This has been one of the biggest blessings of my life,” said Lincoln County TWRA officer and Event coordinator Leith Konyndyk. “Over 250 boys and girls participated in the weekend of outdoor youth activities, and 70 deer were checked in.”
Along with raising money for cancer research, the focus of the festival was getting kids involved in outdoor activities. Augmenting the youth hunt were live music, fantastic food, lawnmower races, games and prizes. Kids shot rifles, bows, and lasers. The live auction featured everything outdoors, from guided hunting trips and treestands, to several hunting vehicles. Somewhere amidst the camouflaged circus emerged the theme of helping others.
Hordes of helpers from far and wide did some amazing things to create a magical experience. Area landowners even gave up their hunting “honey holes” for the two-day youth hunt. Each child was paired with a volunteer hunting guide, and in some cases, a camera crew. A few young hunters with special needs got extra attention to overcome their limitations.
Aaron Warren, 9, of Petersburg, is bound to a wheelchair by spinal muscular atrophy. Tom Neel, of Ardmore, not only donated the use of his hunting land, but also built a 20-foot ramp to wheel Aaron up to the shooting house. Neel purchased a .243 Weatherby rifle and fashioned a complex syringe system so that Aaron could push a plunger in order to activate the gun’s trigger. When Aaron harvested a beautiful 6-pointer, Centerville’s Brad Chandler of Chandler Taxidermy mounted the buck for free.
“It’s about kids helping kids and adults helping adults,” said acclaimed oncologist and KHFAC President Dr. John Waples. Over $60,000 in proceeds from the event were donated to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Russel Hill Cancer Foundation, organizations which research youth and adult cancer.
“We want those kids to learn the value of getting together and raising money, as well as the value of being outdoors and enjoying all that God created.”
After such a successful first event, the future looks bright for Kids Hunting For a Cure. Many states have already requested information about hosting their own KHFAC youth events. Plans are also in the works to team up with Kirk Thomas of Outdoors Without Limits, to partner with people with special needs who just want to get outdoors.
When the dust had settled from the check-in road, hundreds of kids were left smiling. Those young faces touched the souls of countless adults and helped raise valuable dollars for cancer research. “It will open up your heart,” said KHFAC Executive Director “Super Dave” Norval. “Give me what days I have left to let me work for these kids.”
Editor’s Note: If you would like to support a cause which brings hope and joy to those in need through the enjoyment of the outdoors, please visit www.kidshuntingforacure.com.
Published in The Messenger 1.17.08