Mark Austin's 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
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
You talk about a happy kid! Our son was on cloud nine for days!
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
Mark’s hunt was donated in part and held at Paradise Lake Ranch in
North Branch Michigan
Mark’s mount was donated by the Huron Point Sportsman’s
Association’s Heritage Days Fund