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 about.

     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 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


B4K Notes:

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