The “Hunt for Hope” was born out of the idea that all individuals, regardless of their disability, should have the opportunity to participate in a deer hunt if they so desire. Heidi and Scott Meshew of Wooster wanted that same opportunity for their son Cooper, an avid outdoorsman affected by a neuromuscular disorder.
The couple contacted the owners of Buckhaven Learning Center in Loudonville, Ohio, to see if they might be interested in hosting a hunt for disabled youth.
Historically, Buckhaven has been home to many hunts for wounded warriors, but never any for children – until now. Generous donations from businesses in Wayne and Holmes counties made it possible for 4 “hunters” and their families to embark on their first deer hunt over Halloween weekend.
Families were treated to an all-expense paid weekend, which included lodging, meals, hunting attire and bows. Three of the hunters are followed in the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center at Akron Children’s Hospital and my family had the pleasure of being asked to participate in this first annual event.
Buckhaven Learning Center is a fully handicapped accessible facility, including all 10 deer blinds. Each hunter was accompanied into the blind by a family member, a professional bow technician/hunter and videographer to capture their big moment.
For those hunters with limited dexterity, crossbows were modified to meet their specific needs.
One hunter in particular had his trigger attached to a button that he was able to physically push himself when he was ready. All of the staff who assisted throughout the weekend donated their time and expertise to be a part of this amazing experience.
The weekend was about more than just hunting. It provided the backdrop for bonding and camaraderie among families affected by similar diagnoses.
We enjoyed the campfire while the kids played hide-and-seek on the 100 acres of beautiful, quiet countryside. We carved pumpkins, iced cookies and collected crawfish from the creek.
Community volunteers donated and served all the meals, allowing families to relax, share their stories and get to know each other.
On Halloween night, the kids dressed up and went trick-or-treating together, while parents passed out candy from the deer blinds. By the end of the weekend it was evident that long-lasting bonds had been formed between the parents, patients and siblings.
We were fortunate enough to share in this experience together and our memories from the first annual “Hunt for Hope” will last a life time. We are already planning for next year.