Ron Raboud has always been an avid outdoorsman. When he came across a charity fulfilling outdoor-adventure wishes for ill and dying children, it seemed natural for him to get involved.
Raboud, president of The Rabco Corp., an Ocoee, Fla.-based supplier of pre-engineered metal buildings, discovered Hunt of a Lifetime in a magazine article. The Pennsylvania-based nonprofit was started in 1999 by Tina Pattison, whose 18-year-old stepson, Matthew, had terminal cancer.
Matthew’s dream was to go on a moose-hunting adventure. Because the Pattisons were unable to afford such a trip, they turned to nonprofit organizations that grant wishes to terminally ill children. At the time, these organizations —Make-A-Wish included—were under attack by animal-rights groups and would no longer sponsor hunting trips.
But the Pattisons would not give up on Matthew’s dream. They began the search for other sponsors, calling sportsmen’s organizations and outfitters. Soon several sponsors came forward, including an outfitter, to provide Matthew and his father an all-expense paid moose hunt. Pattison then founded Hunt of a Lifetime to fulfill the hunting and fishing wishes of other terminally ill children. The benefit is open to boys or girls ages 12 to 21. The trips are paid through donations of money and services.
Raboud contacted the organization and offered to accompany a boy or girl on a deer, wild boar or bear hunt. About a year ago, he received a call from Pattison. She had a 21-year-old young man with spina bifida, Heath Loveless, who wanted to go on a bear hunt in British Columbia. After six months of planning, Raboud and his crew, which included his own 15-year-old son, Bryan, and one of Bryan’s friends, set out to make Loveless’ dream come true. The young man’s youth minister, Rev. Stacy Reed, also accompanied the hunters.
Outfitter Dave Wabnegger of Otter Lake Guide Outfitters in Keremeos, British Columbia, guided the 10-day hunting trip. Because Loveless is confined to a wheelchair, the group traveled by truck until it found an area populated by bears. They then descended into the wooden area for the hunt, where Loveless harvested a black bear.
For Raboud, the hunt was successful on many levels. “I’ve been involved in outdoor activities all my life. At some point, I tended to take it for granted, became almost complacent in the enjoyment of it,” he says. “The trip reinvigorated me for the outdoors because of seeing the enthusiasm and excitement this young guy had. Everything was a new experience for him—seeing snow, riding in an airplane, catching trout. It was pretty fulfilling.”
He believes the trip also gave his son a different perspective on life. “I could see at the beginning of the trip there was a little uneasiness being around a physically challenged person,” he recalls. “Ten days later, it was almost like the wheelchair didn’t exist. They were catering to him in the beginning and picking on him like a brother in the end.”
The experience was so rewarding, Raboud will lead another youth, who has leukemia, on a bear-hunting trip this May. “Not only was Loveless a great kid, the trip was exciting; and it was nice for me for the experience it gave my son,” he says. For more information on Hunt for a Lifetime, visit www.huntofalifetime.org.