Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Georgia Teenager Thought He’d Die, Makes Dream Hunt a Reality

He couldn’t see. He couldn’t walk. He struggled to breathe. Chip Madren was just 13 years old when he suffered a brain tumor. As he lay in an Atlanta hospital bed that first night, he thought he was going to die. He wished he still had a future. It turns out he did but it included scores of doctors, nurses and treatments, and even greater amounts of perseverance, courage, family, friends, faith and hope. Chip spent six months in a hospital bed. It took him 10 months to learn to talk again. Though legally blind, his eyesight ever so slowly evolved but remains somewhat limited.
Chip’s family found out about the Outdoor Dream Foundation (ODF) which eventually contacted the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Chip now had something, literally, to shoot for.

"Every time it got tough, this was sort of the carrot out there that got us through I don't know how many hours of therapy," Chip’s father Ken told the Newport News Times. "These nice things that are done are powerful fuel. If it's what you like, it's what you live for, and this is what he likes."

Two years after he first entered the hospital, 15 year old Chip, his father and a family friend boarded a plane for the 2,600 mile flight to Oregon. Their destination was the Hogevoll Ranch approximately 130 miles south of Portland. Chip’s visit marked the second time Ben and Debbie Hogevoll opened their 158-acre ranch for an ODF hunt. Much of the ranch is covered by an RMEF conservation easement which permanently protects the land and its habitat, although that habitat only improves day by day thanks to the Hogevoll’s stewardship. 
Hogevall Ranch, OR

RMEF supported such dream hunts the past seven years, including a handful this hunting season alone. Members of the RMEF Lincoln County chapter stepped up to make arrangements, cover expenses, set up an elk camp for their Georgia friends, scheduled cooking assignments, and helped out with the hunt itself. Since Chip could not climb, Ben placed a pallet on his tractor, lifted him off the ground, and then climbed up to join him that foggy morning. Several cows appeared and a 6x6 bull eventually turned broadside. Chip pulled the trigger and his trophy was down. With tears in his eyes, Ken sprinted to the makeshift tree stand from several hundred yards away.

"This is the thing we love to do together, and I had no idea whether or not what we've done together before would happen again," he Told the Newport News Times. "So to have this happen and have it come off successfully is great. It's a pretty regal return to the outdoor realm."

An avid lover of the outdoors, Chip is now back home with his family in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The freezer is full with 225 pounds of Oregon elk meat. The mount will hold a special place on the family wall. His dream hunting trip will always remain a special memory but he’s not looking back. Chip’s next goal is to return to the Georgia woods with his father. And beyond that? Well, he wants to hunt pronghorn antelope.

Chip & his dad

"Everybody wants to know Chip's prognosis," Ken said. "Well, we don't know. Anything could happen. I think he'll walk. How far? I don't know. He's got tremendous determination, and that's been the key. That and prayer."

Atta boy Chip! Thanks for your endurance and your example. And thank you RMEF volunteers for making another dream hunt come true.

(Chip and his family launched Chip's Nation, a non-profit effort to raise money to help other families dealing with devastating children's illnesses.)

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