- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Fans of hunting shows regard the "Buckmasters" TV series on the TNN network as the benchmark in the tough world of cable and satellite television that nowadays might offer 400 channels to spoiled viewers. But we wonder how many hunters know about the Montgomery, Alabama-based Buckmasters American Deer Foundation that, for the ninth consecutive year, has granted the wishes of severely disabled or critically ill youngsters who want to go hunting?

"We established what later became the Buckmasters Life Hunts in 1994 and increased them when the major wish-granting organizations stopped honoring children's requests that involved firearms or archery equipment," says Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman. "This program gives children with so little to look forward to a glimmer of hope.

Bushman's remark about other service organizations is directed at least in part to the national Make-A-Wish Foundation that not long ago caved in to animal rights protesters and stopped granting requests from terminally ill children whose last wish was to go on a hunting trip.

Buckmasters Life Hunts are open to all those 21 and under who have a life-threatening illness or a disease that is known to shorten life span. The Buckmasters American Deer Foundation will accept applicants on an individual basis. Most of the travel and other hunt-related expenses of accepted applicants will be paid for by the BADF.

Buckmasters was among the first service groups to step forward and offer these hunts, increasing the number of outings annually. It plans to expand the program even more in years to come.

For example, five young people will be invited to participate in an exclusive TV hunt in January with Bushman and several nationally known celebrities, including comedian Jeff Foxworthy, a longtime Life Hunts supporter.

Wisconsin resident Rose Wich saw the benefits of such an outing firsthand. Her 9-year-old son Timmy had developed Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his ribs, and went on one of the hunts. The Buckmasters group provided Timmy with the hunting equipment he needed, made all the arrangements, and the boy thoroughly enjoyed the hunt despite 11-degree temperatures. He took two fine Wisconsin bucks.

"Because of your help, a painful experience [turned into] one of hope and fun," Mrs. Wich wrote in a letter to Buckmasters. "When Timmy was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, his life became a constant stream of doctor appointments, treatments and hospital stays. He remained relatively positive throughout the ordeal, but the real turning point was when he found out he could go on the deer hunt you arranged."

For Timmy, it was a dream come true.

Do you know someone who should get in touch with Buckmasters? The parents or guardians of prospective Life Hunts participants must contact the BADF for an interview and application form. The BADF will work with the parents and the child to arrange a memorable hunt at a location as convenient as possible. Hunts for many types of game can be arranged. There is no deadline for applying, but applications and interviews should be completed as quickly as possible. Contact David Sullivan, National Director, Buckmasters Disabled Hunter Services, P.O. Box 1628, Northport, Ala. 35476; phone 205/339-2800 or e-mail dsullivan@Buckmasters.com.

Want to support the program? Individuals and companies wishing to support such Buckmasters Life Hunts can contribute to a specially earmarked fund. All contributions go directly to supporting the Life Hunts program. Guides, outfitters and hunting lodges that offer quality hunting opportunities are also needed.

"It doesn't take much work to host a Life Hunt or a hunt for other disabled hunters," says Bushman. "With a [wheelchair] ramp here and there and a few ground blinds these guys and gals can get around. There's not one of them that wants sympathy. They need just a little bit of help. That's all they need. Just a little help and access."

The BADF is a non-profit, tax exempt 501 C-3 organization. Contributions are tax deductible.

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