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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why RMEF Volunteers Do What They Do

Nine-year-old Kate Deklerk has attended the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's Peoria, Illinois, banquet for five years with her father Tony. Regional chair Terry McLaughlin emcees the event and gets youths involved by having them draw raffle winners. Kate was just 5 years old when Terry asked her to help at the 2010 banquet. After the drawing, Kate returned to her table, but before reaching it she dashed back up and gave Terry the biggest hug imaginable. The hug caught Terry totally off-guard and touched him deeply. Every year since, Kate always greets Terry at the banquet with a great big hug.

Kate Deklerk and her new rifle
In 2013, every RMEF chapter received a Weatherby youth rifle package underwritten by the MidwayUSA Foundation. The Peoria committee decided the live auction was the best place for the rifle. Banquet night arrived, and soon it was time to draw raffle winners. When it was time for the “Pick of the Herd” raffle (where the winner gets to choose an item from the live auction), Terry had the auctioneer’s son draw the winning ticket. When nobody claimed the prize, Terry, who’d purchased four chances, checked his tickets and realized that he was the winner!

While he looked over the items, Terry wondered if he should choose the banquet rifle or one of the prints. Then he spotted the youth rifle and had an idea. Remembering that awesome hug from Kate in 2010, and valuing the friendship he had built with Tony since, Terry approached Tony and asked if Kate was going to be shooting or hunting with him. Tony said yes, she had already started to shoot and had been afield with him. Terry asked Kate to come up front with him, and announced that he was selecting the youth rifle package from the live auction and giving it to Kate! Terry’s generosity stirred the crowd and resulted in a record night for the Peoria Chapter’s banquet. And to top it off, Tony became a life member!

A little later, Kate approached Terry at the podium and handed him a piece of paper. She had listened to Terry tell the crowd that he had been ill recently, and she had torn a piece of paper off the banquet program and written, “Get well soon. Sorry I did not know,” and added hearts and a couple dozen Xs and Os. Kate had once again deeply touched Terry’s heart. He saved that scrap of paper and had it nicely framed.

The note, the smile on Kate’s face when handed the new youth rifle, and the special friendship between Terry, Tony and Kate have all helped solidify the reasons why Terry is an RMEF volunteer. Kate and all the youths like her are why we do what we do!
-Kurt Flack, Regional Director, Southern Wisconsin & Illinois

Go here to learn how to become an RMEF volunteer.

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