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Hunting as Rehab

Using hunting as rehab is finally getting some deserved popularity.

Anyone who has ever watched the sun rise over the forest while making their way to their tree stand knows just how therapeutic hunting can be. A South Carolina organization is taking that realization one step further and turning hunting into the basis of a rehabilitation program.

The organization, called the Outdoor Dream Foundation, essentially gives hunting the Make a Wish Foundation treatment. Founded in 2004 with the idea of giving children with “terminal or life-threatening illnesses” the chance to experience remarkable hunting adventures, the Outdoor Dream Foundation has given kids the opportunity to hunt all manner of game, from deer to elk, from black bear to caribou, and even alligator.

Non-hunters might not understand the appeal of what the Outdoor Dream Foundation is offering, and they certainly have an argument on their side. After all, many of the kids that the Outdoor Dream Foundation seeks to help only have months or years to live. They are trying to make peace with illness, with death, with fear – both their own and their parents’ – and with the fact that, quite simply, they’ve been dealt a bad hand. Some will never understand why these children, weak in body but resolute in mind, want nothing more than to sit in tree stand or a blind with someone who understands them and hunt big game. Why should killing animals be therapeutic for kids whose lives may soon leave them?

But for those of us who love hunting, for people who were raised up from day one to love the escapism of it, the communion with nature, the challenge and skill demanded by it, and the great rewards of finding success, Outdoor Dream Foundation is doing incredible work.

We all find our moments of therapeutic escape in different ways. Some find it in music or art; others look to family and friends. We find that kind of rehabilitation in the woods, surrounded by peace and beauty, with the biggest deer we’ve ever seen before captured squarely in the sights of our rifles.

Kids, no matter how unhealthy, deserve to have those moments, and Outdoor Dream is supplying them.

Perhaps the best thing about the Outdoor Dream Foundation is how it is inspiring people throughout the country to build similar outreach programs for unwell kids and teenagers. Just recently, a pair of hunting enthusiasts from South Carolina organized a hunting and fishing trip for ten or so kids between the ages of 8 and 19.

Two members of the party were diagnosed with terminal multiple sclerosis and another with leukemia. However, all joined together in a communal hunting getaway that allowed them to experience the wonders of hunting first hand while also feeling like they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

“Being a part of something bigger than yourself” is one of the core goals of the Outdoor Dream Foundation, which was founded by a father/son team in 2004. Inspired by the father – Harold Jones – and his experiences coaching football in the 1960s, Outdoor Dream Foundation may still be a niche organization today, but its origins are actually well known. Harold Jones was the coach of the football team depicted in the 2003 film, Radio, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris. Jones noticed a mentally challenged young man, nicknamed Radio, and made him a part of the football team. When Jones saw how happy the young man was to be a part of the team, it moved him.

Years later, the Outdoor Dream Foundation was born.

And we couldn’t be more proud of the hunting community because of it.

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Hunting as Rehab