On the latest edition of Amazing America with Sarah Palin, viewers were treated to stories of love through hunting. The stars of the show are truly selfless heroes–men and women who set up dream hunts for terminally ill children and brave members of the FDNY and NYPD.
The show kicks off in Missouri with field host Tara Conner visiting with Dan Wilhite and the incredible organization called Hunt Of A Lifetime. Whilite donates his time and resources to put smiles on the faces of serious ill children. This time out Whilite took young brothers Blake and Cole Vanhouten out to look for whitetail deer. Blake, 13 and Cole, 10 both have Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Their mom, Casey Fair tells Conner you just have to make every day special. This hunt was certainly one of those days.
The boys had an absolute blast on a cold, snowy, early morning in The Show Me State. Meantime, Conner was moved by the story of those who make all these hunts possible.
Tina Pattison, the founder of Hunt Of A Lifetime tells Conner how the group started. Her terminally ill son, Matt wanted to go moose hunting. It wasn’t easy to find a program that provided such a hunt. Once Pattison did however she decided that she needed to make this dream possible and more accessible to other kids as well. Hunt Of A Lifetime was born.
Matt was able to get his moose and fulfill his hunting goal. Six months after his big day, Matt passed away. Now, his mom looks to heaven each and every time a child in Hunt Of A Lifetime bags an animal and she tells her son they “got another one”.
“I can think of no sweeter way to honor your son’s memory, Tina,” Palin said. “You are exactly the kind of woman I mean when I talk about mama grizzlies.”
Another mama grizzly, Barb Rabbitt is introduced to us later. She’s Wilhite’s girlfriend and she provided a great meal of biscuits and gravy for the Vanhouten boys. The kids also dug in to a huge camouflage cake. “These two little dudes are having the time of their lives,” said Palin.
The brothers certainly did have fun doing what they love. It didn’t hurt having a former Miss USA along for the ride. The boys thanked Conner for coming with them on their hunt with Cole adding “Tara, next time I kill a deer you’re going to have to skin it.” No word yet from Conner if she’s up for that one.
While hunting can make children smile it can also prove therapeutic, not only for kids but for big, strong men. Field host Jerry Carroll headed to Pike County, Illinois to spend a day with New York City police officers and firefighters who make an annual trek to the Land of Lincoln for some relaxing deer hunting. The guys had monster bucks on their mind but for a group that started this tradition following 9-11, camaraderie and a place to escape for a few days trumps any hunting success.
These men lost friends in the attacks on the World Trade Center. They know about people paying the ultimate price. You can see why time in the great outdoors, far from the city they protect and serve can work wonders.
Sean Murtha (NYPD officer), Jerry Murtha (Ret. FDNY), Kevin Shea (Ret. FDNY), and Kevin Keatley (FDNY) are a spirited bunch. They’re the kind of guys you’d like to hang out with. Men you’d be proud to call friends.
“I have so much gratitude in my heart for these guys–police and firefighters everywhere,” Palin said. “Where would we all be without their sacrifices? And yet for them, heroism–it’s all in a day’s work.”
Shea, who was injured in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and lost a partner on 9-11 has seen it all. Now, he’s all about giving back–teaching others how to hunt along the way, including military firefighters. As Palin put it “this is what a hero’s retirement looks like.”
In the end, Carroll and the guys came up empty. No deer on this trip. But, that didn’t matter one bit. They came up huge where it counts the most. Another wonderful trip filled with laughter and togetherness.
“Every working man and woman faces a lot of stress on the job, but none more so than police and firefighters,” Palin said. “So, thanks for all that you do to protect and to serve in America.” Americans from coast to coast are echoing those very sentiments.
Amazing America with Sarah Palin airs Thursdays on Sportsman Channel