Group Offers Hunts for Seriously Ill Kids
Many years ago, I picked up the phone and called a woman in Pennsylvania I had just learned about online. Her name was Tina Pattison and she had launched an organization for children with life-threatening illnesses who wanted to go on hunting and fishing trips.
Pattison, I found out during the two-hour phone call that night, had a son who had died of Hodgkin’s disease. The young man, a lifelong outdoorsman wanted to hunt a moose, but was turned down by a national wish-granting group that had decided to quit granting wishes involving guns and hunting after taking a lot of flak from anti groups over a couple of wishes they had sent kids on.
But as Pattison told me that night, “Not every child wants to go to Disney World.”
After her son died, she formed the group, Hunt of a Lifetime, to fill that need and which now has a Vermont chapter.
But, Vermont also has another group working to send kids on hunts every fall and they’re doing great work.
The Hunters, Anglers and Trappers Association of Vermont was instrumental in getting the Vermont legislature to approve one moose permit per year for a kid with life threatening illnesses in 2005. A few years later, that was changed to three permits.
Ed Gallo, a former Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board member, has been a force behind the program and still leads the HAT effort, which guides one youngster each fall, while Hunt of a Lifetime generally takes two kids per year.
Gallo said the two groups work together, but HAT’s primary goal is to provide the hunt to a Vermont kid, providing everything needed from gear, food, guide and game processing without cost through donations and volunteers.
So far, HAT has taken six Vermont kids moose hunting and four of them have bagged a moose.
“We’ve been fairly successful,” Gallo said. “Almost every kid gets a moose.”
More than just the success, Gallo said, it’s giving kids who have been dealt a bad hand something to look forward to and build memories.
“These kids are sick,” Gallo said. “You don’t realize until you do this. It gives them a chance to forget all that and get out and hunt with the boys.”
In February, Gallo went to the Fish & Wildlife Board to ask for some changes to the annual permits.
Gallo said he has always received strong support from hunters, nonhunters, the board, and the Fish & Wildlife Department. But the board’s reaction in February shows just how much support the moose permits have.
After Gallo completed his presentation, Rutland County’s representative on the board Justin Lindholm, who was at his final board meeting of his six-year term, told his fellow board members he supported everything Gallo had asked for and that he had never faced such an easy decision in his life.
Others on the board were equally supportive.
Gallo had asked the board to allow the youth hunters to hunt in any Wildlife Management Unit where moose hunting is allowed that season in case a kid needs to stay close to medical care or other needs.
The board agreed unanimously.
He also asked the board to allow members of the hunting party to carry the hunter’s rifle for him or her. Only the permittee would be shooting, but in some cases the kid’s physical condition means that carrying the rifle for long distances can be too much.
The board approved it unanimously.
Gallo’s request that the three permits be either-sex hunts allowing a kid to take any moose, was slightly controversial. The department opposed the measure, but told the board it would not have a biological impact on the herd and the board unanimously supported the either-sex request.
Finally, the board agreed to have the department work on allowing flexibility as to who would be assisting on the hunt. Currently names have to be submitted early, but as volunteers, things might come up. Nobody wants to see a kid penalized because a volunteer’s plans changed.
The Hunters, Anglers and Trappers Association of Vermont is doing great work in my opinion, and deserve support.
If you can help this group financially, that’s what they need most.
“We get a lot of help from a lot of local people,” Gallo said. “But, it’s quite an undertaking.”
The hunts cost real money despite donations.
“It boils down to money,” Gallo said. “We need money.”
If you can help, you can contact Gallo at email@example.com.