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Thursday, October 18, 2012

RMEF Makes Teenage Cancer Survivor’s “Dream Hunt” Come True

Wyatt Melton
Wyatt Melton is a fighter. Not even two years of age, doctors diagnosed him with cancer. He underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment. By age four, he was cancer free.

The Outdoor Dream Foundation (ODF) found out about Wyatt and his courageous fight. The charitable organization, which helped fulfill the dreams of 300 terminally ill children or those who faced life threatening illnesses since 2006, contacted Wyatt. Then, with the approval of his doctors, ODF reached out to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for help.

The Tillamook County Chapter in Oregon, sponsor of several similar youth hunts in the past, welcomed the opportunity to do so again. Members of the Mid Carolina and Upstate Carolina chapters of South Carolina got wind of the outing and stepped up to help. They contacted the now 13 year old Wyatt and his family in Summerville, South Carolina, inviting them to attend their big game banquets where members and volunteers rolled out the red carpet. Festivities included the usual raffles and revelry that make up a spirited RMEF gathering. Ceremonies also included special recognition of Wyatt and his parents. A volunteer from Orangeburg, SC, offered to cover the cost of the taxidermy work while other RMEF volunteers, on both sides of the country, stepped up to plan the trip, arrange for accommodations, and pay for expenses. Wyatt’s Outdoor Dream Foundation Oregon elk hunt was on!

Oregon volunteers prepared for the outing by making pre-cooked meals and desserts, getting the lodge ready, hand-loading ammunition, sighting in and placing a muzzle break on what would become Wyatt’s rifle, and planning a post-hunt barbecue celebration. Wyatt and his parents, accompanied by an RMEF volunteer, flew from South Carolina to Portland and continued on to Tillamook. Once at the lodge, a staffer from RMEF headquarters presented Wyatt with a donated Browning X-Bolt 308 and scope, binoculars, knife set, sling, elk calls, vest and Team Elk hat. A member of the Klamath Falls Chapter also presented the family with a handmade quilt. Wyatt proved his shooting eye at the gun range where he successfully got the feel of his new rifle.
The hunt took place the next morning on 175,000 acres of Stimson Lumber Company land restricted to Wyatt’s party until after his hunt. Two Stimson staffers took time off to serve as guides. One of them led Wyatt through a misty morning fog to a clear cut where he spotted elk the previous day. And there he stood—a beautiful, majestic bull!

Wyatt’s aim proved true. Within 30 minutes, Wyatt’s elk was on the ground. An inspection later revealed three lung shots made at 297 yards. The hunting party field dressed the elk and a local taxidermist had it caped out and hung the meat in his locker—a service provided at no charge. The meat was also shipped home at no cost.

Because Wyatt’s elk hunt came to such an unexpectedly swift conclusion, volunteers quickly planned other activities. They returned to the woods for unsuccessful bear and coyote hunts. Other volunteer-led activities included deep sea fishing, crabbing, sightseeing, and even a flight in a vintage 1927 bi-wing airplane. More than 60 people later gathered at a celebratory barbecue to honor Wyatt and his family at the end of their stay.

“I can honestly say that this is the finest example of volunteerism I have ever seen or experienced. It was a heart thumping experience,” said Dr. Carl Walsh, RMEF Eastern regional chair and volunteer who accompanied the Meltons from South Carolina. “There were quite a number of people involved and everyone was doing more than their fair share to make this happen, and doing so joyfully.”

Wyatt boarding a 1927 vintage airplane
Wyatt will have much more than a full freezer to always remember his Oregon hunt. First of all, there’s a possible entry into the record books as the waiting period continues to see if his 6x7 bull qualifies. If that’s not enough, RMEF had a camera crew and Team Elk member Kristy Titus on hand to record the hunt for the Team Elk television show scheduled to air in the fall of 2013.

Dr. Carl Walsh & Wyatt
Good job Wyatt! God job volunteers!

Guide Mike McKibben, Kristy Titus, Darrin Melton & son Wyatt


As Dr. Walsh later wrote in an email: Dreams + volunteers = reality.

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