Recently I was invited to visit with a group of hunters in NE Oregon. Emotions were hidden by dark sunglasses and tears were forced to be unshed as they each explained what makes Hunt of a Lifetime so special to them, as men, as hunters, and as mentors. This was a special group, I knew it from the start and was even more convinced as my time with them lingered into evening, ending with a prime rib dinner and some photos of the group with the trophy elk, taken by 15-year-old cancer survivor, Collin Wilcox.
By Lori Kimbel
Clay McEnroe, of Baker County, Oregon has been involved with Hunt of a Lifetime for 11 years and has taken 40 kids on successful elk, antelope and mule deer hunts. Five premium access tags are set aside for Hunt of a Lifetime hunts in northeast Oregon, with each hunt lasting between four and five days.
“This isn’t real elk hunting,” McEnroe emphasizes, “someone looks out for us.”
McEnroe is the representative for northeast Oregon, but he is the first to tell you he couldn’t do it without the group of people that have come together over the past several years, volunteering their time and making dreams come true for the kids that come from all over the United States to go on the hunts provided by the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation.
McEnroe’s son Taylor has been involved with Hunt of a Lifetime since he was 14, he is now 25. The two scout for animals, so that once the hunter arrives there is a pretty good idea of where the elk, deer or antelope are.
When Tom Lager, owner of Timber Tiger Lodge, first heard about the Hunt of a Lifetime, he knew instantly he wanted to be involved.
“We wanted to give them a place to stay,” said Lager, who also serves as a part-time film maker of the hunts, “so we offered for everyone to come to the lodge. It is all for the kids, to put a smile on their face.”
Timber Tiger Lodge is located in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. With the Eagle Cap Mountains in the distance and Baker Valley below, the view is spectacular; a great place to relax before and after a big hunt.
Ron Ross also comes from Silverdale, Washington and spends every September feeding the visitors of Timber Tiger Lodge during Hunt of a Lifetime hunts. “September I’m just gone from home to be here,” said Ross.
“He is a jack of all trades and we use every single one of them. We have even helped him discover a few more,” said Betty Bottger, Lager’s girlfriend and willing volunteer at the lodge.
Ross donates all of the food for the Hunt of a Lifetime guests. From lasagna to prime rib, his cooking is a favorite among hunters and volunteers alike.
Brent Woolard is from Silverdale, Washington and does a fabulous job capturing memories and putting together DVD’s for the northeast Oregon kids that participate in hunt of a lifetime, according to Bottger.
Collin Wilcox happened to be one of the kids that realized his dream of hunting an elk late in the summer of 2015. Collin made the trip from Wisconsin to Oregon with his dad, Kevin Wilcox.
“This has been an absolute dream for both of us,” explained Kevin. “The enthusiasm of all these guys, they are all just having fun, it’s amazing.”
Once the hunt is completed and the hunters have returned home the meat from the animal is processed and shipped to them. They also receive a shoulder mount of their animal. For Collin that means a huge 6 x 7 point elk from Oregon will soon be hanging in the living room of his home in Wisconsin.
Collin was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at the age of 13, he wasn’t about to let it take his love of hunting, fishing and the outdoors away. However, Osteosarcoma can be relentlessly painful and it isn’t always easy to just ignore the pain and go about your day to day activities, but Collin gave it his best shot.
“Everything changed when we got the diagnosis,” said Kevin. “We instantly got thrown into a fire fight. We were in shock and we knew we just had to gather our strength. Fortunately my wife and I work for a company that lets us take time off. We always tried to just stay positive. Collin and I would go out in the boat after dinner until dark. Never once has he said ‘I don’t feel good’ on the boat, or when we are hunting.”
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer and it typically starts in bone cells in the arms, legs, or pelvis. The disease most frequently occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30 and it is also more common in males then it is in females.
For Collin, Osteosarcoma meant losing his knee and femur which would later be replaced by a prosthetic rod invented in Great Britain. Collin underwent two rounds of chemo before a 12 hour surgery each round lasting four weeks. After surgery he received five more rounds of chemo every four weeks. Collin endured 30 weeks of chemo at the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukie.
Kevin shared that he would often find Collin in other parts of the children’s hospital playing games with intercity kids, some more sick then himself. Many of the intercity kids arrived at the hospital in a taxi, with no one to worry, or care about them outside the hospital.
“It was amazing when you went into the ‘hot unit’ and you would see kids smiling,” said Kevin. “Somehow, with all they are going through they can still reach out and find happiness.”
Now, after a year of treatment, Collin’s cancer is gone and he has just completed the hunting trip of a lifetime where he was able to stalk, and take a bull elk thanks to a group of people that have dedicated their lives in helping young people realize their hunting dreams.
Collin will continue to be checked by his doctors every three months for the next 10 years and once back home he will share his Oregon Hunt of a Lifetime story with others.
“I’m blessed to have a future,” said Collin who was fortunate enough to get time off work to make the trip. A normal day for Collin includes milking 275 cows each morning, a daunting task for a 15-year-old, but he seems to be well able to get the job done.
“We do it because this is what we enjoy doing,” said McEnroe, with a sincere smile as he wrestled a bit with a rambunctious Collin, a true typical 15-year-old, who was not quite ready to leave the lodge and the people that would forever be a part of his memories of his very own hunt of a lifetime.
Danny Benson is the Oregon Ambassador for the Oregon Chapter of Hunt of a Life time, which was started in 2002.
“I have set up 69 kids that have come to, or been from Oregon, for the dream hunt,” said Benson. “All have been successful not only being able to take the trophy they wanted but in them having some time to enjoy live in the outdoors and forget about their problem. I have not be able to go on every hunt but on the ones that I have it is the joy in the child’s eye, the smiles and sometime the tears that make this a great program.”
Ryan Leonnig was also very involved in Collin’s hunt. He and Collin bonded quickly and enjoyed taking the UTV out on excursions around the lodge after the hunt was complete.
Since being home Collin misses all of the men he met in Oregon and truly admires Clay for what he did for him and all of the guys he met there. He also says he could never thank Tina enough for starting Hunt of a Lifetime. He feels sad for her to know she had to loose her own son for this to happen. He is very thankful for what she has done.
Hunt of a Lifetime is a nonprofit organization, created by Tina Pattison, with a mission to grant hunting and fishing dreams for children, age 21 and under, who have been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.
When Tina Pattison’s son Matthew was diagnosed with cancer he dreamt he would one day be able to hunt moose with his dad. Tina contacted a wish granting organization to see if Matthew would qualify for one of those dream wishes. Tina was told that since Matthew was past the age of 18 he no longer qualified, and the organization had quit granting hunting wishes. This did not stop this mother who was now on a mission. Tina made phone call after phone call to outfitters and finally received a call from Clayton Grosso an outfitter in Nordegg, a small village in Alberta, Canada. They went above and beyond fulfilling Matthews dream. Within the first day of their adventure Matthew was able to drop a huge bull moose in its tracks. Six months later Matthew passed away. (There is so much more to Matthew’s life story, please visit www.huntofalifetime.com to read the amazing Story of Matthew Pattison written by his mother Tina.)
It was after losing her son that Tina decided to start a foundation that would fulfill the dreams of terminally ill children, giving them a chance to embark on an outdoor hunting or fishing adventure. Soon Hunt of a Lifetime was born.
According to the Hunt of a Lifetime website, each hunt experience is unique to the child. When diagnosed with life threatening illnesses, most children don’t have time to realize their dreams. Hunt of a Lifetime is dedicated to giving children the possibility of achieving their desired hunting or fishing trip. The hunts are conducted by an all-volunteer group and there are no out of pocket expenses for the hunters.