By devoting themselves to a variety of worthy causes, members of the whitetail community are making a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
People hunt for all sorts of reasons. But part of what draws every hunter to the woods is the fact that this special activity both demands and rewards self-reliance. For the individual who enjoys making his own way in the outdoors, there's great appeal to the idea of meeting challenges head on, with no one else to depend on when the going gets tough.
West Georgia Habitat for Humanity volunteers welcome a needy resident to her new home. Funds generated by the first "Building With Bows" event helped pay for the house.
Sadly, though, not everyone has to go to woods in search of challenges -- the challenges have come to them. These are folks who legitimately need help overcoming huge obstacles in everyday life, whether something as common as medical problems or as rare as being displaced by a hurricane.
The good news is that many sportsmen recognize these urgent needs and are happy to do what they can to help. And that help takes some novel forms.
When Hurricane Katrina sent thousands of refugees fleeing from the Gulf Coast in September 2005, the nation's critical lack of low-cost housing was brought into sharp focus. Among those who recognized it and decided to take action was my friend Dr. Richie Bland, an avid bowhunter from Carrollton, Georgia. He saw a critical need for more affordable housing in his area, and he started looking for ways to provide it.
Richie learned that the West Georgia chapter of Habitat for Humanity (www.westgahabitat.org), headed up by fellow deer hunter Tee Green, had been searching for some type of event that would generate funds for home construction. Richie offered to host a 3-D archery tournament at his local farm, with all net proceeds going to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. The staff at Buck Creek Outdoors, a local archery shop at which I have my Mathews bows set up for use on North American Whitetail Television, also eagerly pitched in to help.
Thus was born the first-ever "Building with Bows" tournament, as well as a "Blue Jean Ball" featuring a catered dinner and fundraising auction. The event was held the same January weekend as the Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show in nearby Atlanta, and to call it successful would be to understate the truth.
"We raised $68,000, then got some matching funds from Habitat for Humanity's national office," Richie says. "We've already completed one home, and that first family has moved in. In fact, work's already begun on a second home."
The event was such a smash hit that plans for a second one, to be held on Jan. 27-28, 2007, were immediately put into motion. Now, Richie says, the momentum is starting to snowball. So many folks are getting involved that organizers now are holding monthly meetings to coordinate the next event.
"We're receiving assistance from a number of companies in the archery industry, and the number keeps growing," Richie notes. "As of right now, we have 2007 sponsorship commitments from PSE, Mathews, Hoyt, Robinson Outdoors, ASA, McKenzie, Winner's Choice and Motion Targets."
Richie invites anyone interested in becoming a sponsor of the "Building with Bows" event -- or even wanting to know how to start a charitable fundraiser in his own area Ã³ to contact him directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, it isn't always necessary for a hunter to start his or her own charitable event in order to help people in need. There are already a number of programs to support, as NAW Television co-hosts Greg Miller and Stan Potts demonstrated last winter. The pair literally donated their own hair to Dr. Arnold S. "Doc" Leonard's battle against pediatric cancer, a cause that for many years now has received strong support from sportsmen.
Doc, a former Professor of Surgery and Head of the Pediatric Surgery Department at the University of Minnesota, is working with his staff to develop new ways to defeat cancer, especially in children. The efforts of Doc's supporters, headed up by veteran whitetail bowhunter Rob Evans, have helped fund this work.
Stan and Greg were among five industry personalities who participated in last January's "Baldy Awards," held at the 2006 ATA show in Atlanta. In exchange for pledges of financial support from a large crowd of industry supporters, the personalities allowed themselves to have their heads shaved, a la cancer patients, to show their proud support of this important cause. The hilarious barbering session took only a few minutes, but the money the event raised for Doc's cancer research -- in excess of $78,000 -- continued to have a positive impact long after the participants' hair has grown back.
"I consider participating in this event to be the most significant thing I've ever done in my bowhunting career," Greg says, and Stan echoes those sentiments. They enthusiastically invite hunters and non-hunters alike to help support Doc's work, which is making a real difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.
For more information on fundraising efforts that benefit the foundation (including its annual "Hunt for a Cure" pheasant shoot, now in its 15th year), contact: Arnold S. Leonard, M.D., PhD., Riverside Professional Building, Suite 818, 606 24th Ave., S, Minneapolis, MN 55454; 612/341-9498.