Date: Friday, September 13, 2013
On September 13-15, 2013, Pheasants Forever Chapter 630 had their 3rd Annual Youth Outdoor Hunt. This hunt is for kids with disabilities and life threatening illness. I’ve been involved every year and I’ve learned something new from each youth.
This year the chapter took two wonderful boys and their families. Reece Scolari, 10, is in remission for kidney cancer and Ryan Tucker, 17, who has cerebral palsy and is paralyzed from the chest down. Both boys are from St. Marys.
The boys were ecstatic when they arrived at the Queenstown Hunt Club where there is a lodge owned by Rosebud Mining of Kittanning. The first day at the lodge consisted of a greeting dinner, gifts and trap shooting. During the meet and greet I meet both families they all were amazed at the beauty of Rosebud’s lodge.
Both families were then gathered around the fire place. Reece and Ryan were given hunting equipment, hunting vests and field chaps.
They got dressed quickly and raced down to the trap lodge. Ryan is in a wheel chair and rode down on Pheasants Forever’s own invention of a car seat welded to the front of an ATV. There is a gun stand for extra help for the shooter and Ryan said the ride was really comfortable.
Reece was the first to shoot, hitting one clay bird after another. Everyone said he was a natural!
After every boy took their shots we all headed off to bed, except for me. I was so excited because tomorrow was the day I got to be a guide for one of the boys. I was also nervous thinking to myself “what if something goes wrong what if it rains, what if…” it went in and out of my head all night.
In the morning everyone woke up to the amazing smell of the Tim and Mary Jo Schneider’s cooking.
After everyone ate it was time to hunt. Being a dog handler is a lot of work. I had to organize the tracking and e-collars, let the dogs burn off steam, making sure the dogs are well hydrated and focused and last but most importantly making sure your hunter knows safety.
I was the guide for Reece’s hunt. The closer we got to hunt the more butterflies I got in my stomach. I introduced my dog Gabby to Reece and we were off to hunt.
As soon as we hit the field Gabby was on point; meaning she found a bird. Reece was told to slowly get behind Gabby and when he was ready the bird would flush. I told her ‘easy’ so she would not chase the bird and she stood like a statue until I gave her the okay to flush the bird. Reece said the bird was in perfect view, he picked up his gun and Gabby flushed the bird. This was Reece’s first bird he ever harvested. When the bird hit the ground I was overwhelmed with emotions I was so happy I had tears in my eyes. I was just glad that I help a kid that truly deserved this experience get his first bird! His family was just so appreciative. I hugged Gabby.
We continued to hunt and found and harvested many more birds.
When we got back to the lodge Reese could not hold back how excited he was about his birds. He would probably broadcast it on the news.
Ryan went out with Tim Rowan and they harvested lots of birds. Even though I was not with Ryan for his hunt, I still felt a feeling accomplishment. Pheasants Forever really put a lot of effort into taking kids hunting and giving kids like Ryan and Reece a chance hunt.
Both boys also went fishing on a nearby pond owned by Ron and Deanna Vlassich, where both boys caught many crappie, trout, catfish, bass and sunfish.
After all the hunting and fishing was done, the boys got the chance to go geocaching. The prizes were scattered all though the lodge’s back yard and the boys had to use a GPS to find them.
After a long day full of fun activities we sat down to a wonderful supper of chicken and roast beef. Our bellies were filled and no one left hungry. We all had some pretty fun conversations and I got to know each boy better.
While everyone was visiting, Emily Schneider and I got together to make surprise scrapbooks for each boy.
Emily was one of the first foundation hunt participants. Emily has spina bifida and her family helped cook this weekend to give back for the time they had when Emily had her hunt. Emily and I became close friends in 2011 during her hunt and we’ve been friends ever since. This year Emily decided to help me with the scrap books and we were up in until 2AM trying to reach perfection in our work.
The next day the boys wanted to go hunting again. I took Reece once again because he told me that he loved Gabby. The group was reunited me, Reece, Gabby, his family with some new additions, my other dog Teddi and John Bilodeau and his dog Morgan.
Reese and Ryan both shot more birds and came back to the lodge where Emily and I handed the families the boys’ scrap books. Dick Bodenhorn gave a speech about how Emily and I both came involved in Pheasants Forever and both families thanked us.
Reece’s mom, Jennifer spoke up and said something that really hit home to me. She said “This weekend our family made lifelong friends!” This meant a lot to me that I made an impact - I made a change in someone’s life. After all the heart breaking goodbyes, I left the lodge with a smile on my face. This weekend that Pheasants Forever organized made me a huge part of the two families’ lives.
I would have never experienced any of this if it weren’t for my Dad pushing me to try my best along with all the members of PF Chapter 630. I would have never heard of Pheasants Forever if it was not for their PF Mentored Youth Hunt. I want to tell Pheasants Forever thank you for making a difference in not only my life but other youth and families lives too!
Ryan Tucker was happy to have a pheasant to hang in his room as a reminder of an excellent day at the Queenstown Lodge near East Brady, PA.
Reese Scolari and Jasmine Carlson showing off their rooster at the Pheasants Forever #630 PF Youth Outdoor event.
Written by Jasmine Carlson, a dog handler for Pheasants Forever and a junior at Ridgway High School.