Mark Austin's Outdoor Wish Hunt
It all started with an e-mail sent out to 25 people
at the most. "Dear friends and family, I am in need of a favor.
My son Mark is in need of a smile. As many of you know, Mark suffers
from a rare immune deficiency. While Mark may look well on the outside,
on the inside he is not." This e-mail message, sent out by Autumn
Austin was a simple request. To send a card wishing her son well,
all to arrive on the same date so Mark would know he was being thought
It was no coincidence that Autumn had planned for the cards to all
arrive on the same day as Marks appointment with one of his doctors
at the U of M Medical Center. Autumn knew that the doctor was going
to tell Mark that he was going to have to keep taking chemotherapy
for another year and was hoping to cheer her son up just a bit.
What Autumn didn't expect, was what was about to happen
after her e-mail hit the desks of some of our fellow bowhunters, both
of whom are members of SCI Bowhunters Chapter. Two brothers, Bob &
Neil Easterbrook took the bull by the horns and got busy writing this
request to hundreds upon hundreds of people on their e-mail lists
including Detroit rocker Ted Nugent, who posted the message on his
web site. From there, it spread to other hunting web sites.
On the day of Marks appointment, Mark returned home
to literally boxes of cards and well wishes from all over the world!
Cards have come from every single state and countries such as Japan,
Finland, England Norway, Canada, and even Africa. One of Mark's most
prized postcards came personally from Ted Nugent, who referred to
Mark as his "Spirit of the wild bloodbrother"
To date, Mark has received almost 2,500 cards, letters and packages
in the mail, thanks in large part to the efforts of two outstanding
people that went the extra distance to make a child smile.
Since then, a lot has happened. Aside from all the cards and letters
from hunters around the world Mark's family was contacted by B4K (Benefit
for Kids). Steve Pray, founder of B4K invited Mark and our family
out to one of the archery shoots that they put on in order to raise
donations for their fine organization.
The archery shoot was hosted by Huron Point Sportsman's
Club. To our surprise Mark was called up to the front stage during
the auction part of the program where he was introduced to everyone
in the room. It was then that Steve Pray handed Mark a brand new compound
bow complete with arrows! Mark was all smiles! But Steve wasn't done.
He still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Steve hit Mark and our family
with the news that B4K was donating a Buffalo hunt to the young aspiring
hunter. Talk about being speechless! Mark nor our family could believe
what we were hearing!
Steve Pray and the B4K members made all of the arraignments.
They met us at our hunt destination early one fall morning. Our gear
was checked, camo donned and we were on our way. Needless to say,
we quickly learned that hunting buffalo isn't as easy as we thought
it would be. Mark and our small group hunted hard. By noon we had
covered a lot of ground and were still batting zero. We had spotted
a nice buff several times but were unable to stalk close enough for
a good shoot without the animal spotting us. By late afternoon I think
everyone in our group was starting to show the effects of fatigue.
As luck would have it, our guide Ed spotted our prey in a heavily
wooded area. A slow, belly crawling stalk to within an estimated 60
yards was the best we could do.
Mark carefully set-up for the shot. The shooting sticks
he had brought along were pushed into the ground and he quietly rested
his scooped 20 gauge slug gun into position. After what seemed like
an eternity, Mark took the shot. The huge buff took three steps forward
and looked our way, steam coming out of his nostrils! By the look
on our guide Ed's face I could tell we should be doing something other
than just laying there. I think both Ed and I leaned over at the same
time to tell Mark to shoot again, but he was already working the bolt
on his gun. A quick second shoot put the buff down for keeps.
You talk about a happy kid! Our son was on cloud nine
Steve and his pals from B4K are also having Mark's buffalo mounted
for him. Mark already has a spot picked out on his bedroom wall (I'm
not so sure mom had the same spot in mind).
Proof once again, that bowhunters (and all hunters
alike) are more than just hunters. These are people that care about
others. These are people that make a difference. These are people
that put their money where their mouth is.
On behalf of Mark, our family would like to give their
heart-felt thanks to Steve Pray and Benefit for Kids and also to the
Huron Point Sportsman's Club.
Without you, none of this would have been possible.
A quick update on Mark. A few months ago, the doctors
told us that Mark is in remission. He is in the process of being weaned
off of the chemo drug he has taken every Friday for over two years
and will be completely off by the end of September.
We would like to think that the outpouring of love
by fellow hunters has greatly contributed to our son's recovery. Words
cannot express our gratitude.
Steve Pray and B4K has touched our hearts and our lives in a way that
very few humans have experienced. Thank you Steve.
The Austin family