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Social media unites hunters for a cause

Social media used to be fun. Certain aspects of it are still a blast, but with folks taking to twitter with things as petty as one bad meal that leads them to degrade a five star restaurant to that of an IHOP, it’s changed beyond words in the past decade. Facebook rants nearly two pages long tearing down businesses, politicians, teachers, auto mechanics and more — you name it and you’ll find it on there.

However, if you scroll past the somewhat depressing posts and rants and overall discord there’s plenty of positive and harmonious things happening on social media.

It’s no secret that outdoorsmen and women around the world have a deep connection to the land under their boots on which they hunt, fish, gather, and live off the land. It’s no wonder why I’m seeing more and more groups pop up that are not just aimed at hunters, but focused on ministering to them. A ministry that aims to take hunters with that same deep spiritual connection to the earth that I previously mentioned and give them a community of like minded individuals to grow with, share with, love with, and hunt with.

It’s not complicated or complex, it’s basic community building with a powerful message that we belong together. That’s just the beginning of what I’ve seen as of late that’s aiming to help others from the heart of the hunting community.

Some of these organizations are very broad in what they hope to achieve, while others are very defined and designed to meet a specific audience and serve a particular purpose. Take for instance, a group called Anything Outdoors (AO). Founded in 2016 by a mother and father, Jacob and Renee Heath, AO is a 501(c)3 that aims to provide financial assistance to children and families at the various treatment facilities of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital — a cause that was all too familiar for this family and the countless hours they had previously spent within the walls of St. Jude’s.

In 2009, the Heath’s son Preston was diagnosed with a very rare, life threating blood disorder called Severe Aplastic Anemia. Severe Aplastic Anemia is a disease in which the bone marrow does not make enough red or white blood cells or platelets for the body. After six months of treatment, one donor backing out and two weeks of high dose chemotherapy, Preston received his life-saving bone marrow transplant on Sept. 29, 2009, the day after his third birthday.

Preston had a lot of struggles after his transplant with many viruses, graft vs. host, fevers and too many hospital stays to count, but after seven months Preston was able to return to Louisiana cured of Severe Aplastic Anemia. He still has annual visits to St. Jude and some side effects, but Preston is now a happy, healthy boy again.

AO’s primary source of accruing money for the cause is apparel sales on various social media platforms, but they also assemble various auctions/fundraisers, and soon hope to include hunting and fishing trips for children to participate in. A true light in the darkness for parents living the nightmare of an ill child.

On a more personal level, I’ve been honored over the past year or so to be welcomed into a group of individuals known as Turkey Call to Action. Our goal is to collect turkey calls, gear, and other hunting materials that are then auctioned off. Proceeds then go to folks who need them.

Our last auction raised more than $20,000 for a 9-year-old girl in the midst of a battle against a cancerous brain tumor. A battle that, as of just this week, it was announced that this little girl is now in remission. This group exists and operates 100 percent on social media. No website or any other off site entities, its existence and future rely fully on the existence of social media platforms — $100,000 plus raised for multiple causes in just two brief years of existence.

So the next time you start to see the incessant babbling of negativity and feel it’s never going to end, look a little further. Although it may be buried, the good stuff, the life-changing, ground-breaking, and life-giving kind of stuff is there to find.

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John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.

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