Five years ago, when my son Ben caught his first fish at the age of 7, I felt confident that this would be the first in a virtually endless succession of rewarding outdoor adventures he would experience in his promising young life. That confidence was grounded in a conviction most parents take for granted – the blessing of their child’s continued good health.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of American families who share our love of the outdoors, but who can’t share the assumption of robust health. They’re families with a child suffering from a terminal illness or a wrenching disability that, tragically, will rob them of their lives before they reach adulthood. Like Ben, these kids harbor a passion for outdoor adventure; but – unlike Ben – their dreams may never be fulfilled.
Fulfilling those dreams has become the mission of the United Special Sportsmen Alliance, a grassroots, all-volunteer organization based in Pittsville, Wisconsin. Through the USSA’s “Outdoor Adventures” program and its team of volunteers, the Alliance has already placed more than two thousand deserving youngsters on dream fishing, hunting, camping and canoeing trips. This coming year, we’re determined to arrange 1000 of these very special expeditions.
Essentially, your help can come in any of four ways:
• If you know of a seriously ill or disabled child who dreams of a hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime, please have their parents or legal guardians contact us, and we will do everything we possibly can to fulfill the child’s wish.
• If you own a fishing or hunting lodge (or know someone who does), and would like to donate a trip to one of the children on our national waiting list, please contact us with available dates, species and requirements. From there, we will work hard match appropriate children to your donation, based on their desires and physical limitations.
• If you have any gently-used gear collecting dust in the attic (or if you know of a tackle/gear manufacturer or retailer willing to open their heart to these needy kids), please consider donating your equipment to the USSA. Many or our children come from homes whose financial resources are all but completely drained by medical bills, ongoing treatments and therapy, and these small gifts – a rod & reel, a hunting vest – even a simple fishing patch for their jacket – often become treasured mementos.
• If you’d simply like to show your support by making a small financial contribution, annual USSA memberships start at just $25, and you can enroll online at www.ChildsWish.com. Contributions are tax-deductible, and because no one on the USSA staff accepts financial compensation of any kind, 100% of your gift goes directly toward helping children in need.
There is, of course, a special sense of urgency here. You see, for these children, there is little time left to defer their dreams…dreams that can come true with the help of the hunting & fishing community.
The United Special Sportsmen Alliance is an all-volunteer, 501(C)(3) charity headquartered at 7864 Shotwell Road, Pittsville, WI 54466. For more information, call (800) 518-8019, or log onto www.ChildsWish.com.
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