There is beauty in being able to grant wishes, especially to children who are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Founder of Hunt of a Lifetime, Tina Pattison, does exactly that by giving these kids an opportunity to fulfill their dream to hunt. Inspired by her own son, Tina shares with us the origin of Hunt of a Lifetime and why she made it her mission to make sure children achieve their hunting dreams. Jim and Kris Gilbert also join the interview, telling us their own story of getting on this organization to give children a chance to hunt. Don’t miss out as these amazing people talk about their heart-wrenching experience and inspiring quest.
Listen to the podcast here:
Hunting Of A Lifetime – Its Mission Is To Create Memories With Tina Pattison And Jim and Kris Gilbert
I have the Founder of Hunt of a Lifetime with me, Tina Pattison. Also, Jim and Kris Gilbert who are Michigan ambassadors for Hunt of a Lifetime.
How are you doing?
I’m doing great. Tina, thank you so much for what you’ve done and I want all the audience to read the story about Matthew. That was the beginning of Hunt of a Lifetime. Everybody needs to hear it from his mother.
Matthew got cancer in 1995. He went into remission and came back in ‘98. I asked what he wanted to do more than anything and he said, “A moose hunt.” I went to another well-known organization and informed us that the hunts were done and they were no longer doing them. I asked them for some leads and called different places. About lead number fifteen or twenty, I finally got a guy that said he could do it but not until the following year. The guy I talked to at first said after I hung up, “God drew at his heartstring,” so he kept looking and he put together a hunt for Matt on October 6th of the same year. The hunt that I got was the next year. Matt went out on October 4th to go to Alberta. He got his moose on October 6th, turn around and spent Thanksgiving with them and came home. Six months later, he went out of remission again. It was aggressive cancer and they did a double dose of chemo. He passed away from the chemo that shut down all his major organs. After putting that one together and raising six boys in the hunting industry, I figured that I did it for Matt, I can do this for others.
I know about expo shows and contacts, so I moved forward and decided to set it in place for Matt. I had to do a lot of praying because people were telling me I was nuts. I got an answer from a good guy up above on Christmas Eve, my mother’s favorite holiday. A godparent called with her first child and I knew it was a sign from above when he told me his godson said his name was Matt. Moving forward and years later, we have got over 1,000 kids with only three paid employees and the rest are all volunteers. We keep moving forward because of wonderful folks like Gilbert whose son went out on a hunt. They’re going to have to tell you when because I forgot the year.
He did it at Ellicott. After that, they signed up and they took over Michigan for us. They’re the Michigan ambassadors. Their son, David, who beat his aplastic anemia has a wife. Kim, his wife and their grandchildren help mom and dad continue spreading the word and doing different things for us in the Michigan area. They travel out of state whenever we need them to travel. It’s become a family tradition and it all started with Dave’s hunt. Kris and Jim are stepping up and taking on Michigan for us. We have a wonderful bunch of different volunteers all over the United States.
Jim, why don’t you talk about the ambassador program, so anybody reading will say, “That’s something I’d like to find out more,” and the role in what you do. Tell us the story of how you guys got involved.
The ambassador program, a lot of what it entails is, we get out there and we go to different hunting and fishing outdoor expos. We travel all over Michigan. We go to churches and we go to fish fries. We’re not only out there beating the bush for the donation for Hunt of a Lifetime, but we’re also out there beating the bushes for the kids. We’re trying to get as many kids involved and give them an actual opportunity of a lifetime. Kris and I both have demanding full-time jobs. I’m working at Bean Elevator and my wife works at a bank. It takes up a little time and it’s not as bad as what everybody thinks. We get to talk which we both love to do. We get to see a lot of people. We get to meet a lot of great individuals on our trips. We’ve made a lot of friends and family doing this.
It’s relatively easy. If I can do it, about anybody can do it because it’s what it is. We got started back in 2007 when my son was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia where he needed a bone marrow transplant to live a fully functional life. Lo and behold after everyone was tested, my daughter Melissa, his oldest and only sister, she was his perfect match. He got his bone marrow transplant and everything’s great. He’s doing fantastic. He was in a group called The Young Explorers through the police, the local sheriff’s department here in Sheridan County in Michigan. He heard of Hunt of a Lifetime, got all the paperwork around and got it to us and Dave. We signed up and they asked Dave three things that he would love to hunt and he picked. He wanted to go on an elk hunt and we had it all set up to go to Colorado.
It’s been a while, so it’s hard to remember, but something happened where the guide couldn’t take us. He asked another gentleman that he knew quite well from New Mexico. A gentleman at the Safari Club International deal in New Mexico had bought what was called a governor’s tag, which he donated to Hunt of a Lifetime. It allowed any person that held this tag to hunt any open available area in New Mexico with any type of weapon. It had to be an open area but they could use any type of weapon. We ended up in New Mexico in a primitive hunting area and used a modern rifle. I wish Dave was available to touch on this, but I can’t say enough that the hunt was amazing and we were hooked immediately. When I came back, I talked to Kris and said, “We have to do this.” We got in contact with Tina. We said we want to be ambassadors, we want to get out and we want to do this. That’s how it went and she said, “Welcome aboard.” She did a background check on us and we passed. Here it is in 2019 and we’ve been around for years.
Did Dave get an elk?
He sure did. He got a 6×6 bull elk right around 350-inch class. It was a good one.
Was it private land or public land?
This was private land. It had been closed to the modern rifle for 80 years. There hasn’t been a modern rifle hunt on this piece of land. He shot it with a 7mm Mag.
You got to go along, right?
I did. Through the program, we send the child and we send one parent with them and cover their expenses. Like I say, the child pays nothing out of pocket for the parents. We cover everything from the boots on their feet, the hat on their heads and everything in between. Also, the weapon of their choice or fishing pole. We make it happen. They tell us what they want to do and we get out there and we beat around. We make it happen.'Hunt Of A Lifetime' is a nonprofit organization with a mission to grant hunting & fishing dreams for children age 21 and under, who have been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. We are doing what we can to make a… Click To Tweet
The other gentleman told me that companies like Cabela’s, Shields, Bass Pro or all the big-name sporting houses have stepped up. When you have a need, you go in and they outfit the kid. Is that a fair statement?
Yes, it’s amazing. If we ask, it’s there. Many of the companies they’ll do about anything when they find out this is for children. There are different big organizations that hand out cards if I’m not mistaken. They hand out the gift card and you send it to the child. They keep the receipts and everything that they get and send it back to us. I’m getting everything correct, Tina?
We buy gift cards through Hunt of a Lifetime. When they go to the stores, the manager gives them a 25% discount to go along with the $500 gift card that we give them.
Are they well taken care of?
Yes, they’re taken care of from taxidermy to processing their meat or their fish, sending it home with them. They get a shoulder mount or a replica of their fish. They get a gift card from Hunt of a Lifetime for $500 to go shopping to make sure that from the toes to the head is covered. We don’t want to get sick when they get there, so we make sure they have the right gear to keep them warm and keep them dry. Everything is covered, tag, license, rental car, hotel and lodging, airline flights back and forth. There’s no expense to the family. I geared it to follow what they did for my son when he went on his honeymoon. Which also started with the Safari Club in Pittsburg. The Safari Club in Pittsburgh put his wife to how to get this hunt and how they made it happen.
They made sure all this stuff was provided for Matt. When Matt passed away, I started doing it for other kids. I said, “I was raising six boys with my husband and has bills that are astronomical with medical stuff. I’m going to make sure that all the things that were done for Matt are done for each child that goes through Hunt of a Lifetime.” There were no expenses from our family when they took Matt. They took him with one adult figure, which we do, they paid for their airlines. They pay for everything. The papers, meat to be processed and shipped back. They made sure he had clothing to keep warm and dry when he went to Alberta, Canada. They made sure that there was nothing on our end that we had to worry about.
They even offered to buy him a new rifle. Matthew had a favorite rifle and a new rifle was not going to replace it, so he turned it down. We do that for the kids. Savage rifle company is the only company that has unlimited discount rifles for our kids. Some of the other ones want to do one or two. Savage has always done every child that we’ve sent them a drastic discount that we can’t get anywhere else. There’s no thought level, “You sent us enough kids, we’re done.” It’s whatever. We have some wonderful companies out there. We have McKenzie that takes care of the forms for the mounts for the kids. We have taxidermists that don’t charge us a thing. We give them all the supplies they need and they do all the taxidermy for free.
Their time and their labor is free. A lot of them would like to meet the families and bring the kids to their place, take them out to dinner and present it to them. They love it when the kids come and they see the smile on their faces. Everything is done. There’s nothing left for us to cover. They get to pick their animals. We don’t pick it for him. We don’t tell him, “You’re going to do this hunt.” It’s, “What do you want? What do you want to fish for? What do you want to hunt for?” We have a young man that’s going to hunt anaconda python in Florida and it’s her first one.
I don’t know if I’d do that.
I called Bill Booth who does National Geographic. He’s been on board years ago. I said, “Bill, do you do snake hunts?” He said, “Yes. Why?” “After twenty years, I got my first anaconda python and I thought of you.” They’re doing it in Florida in January.
Do you have a huge waiting list, Tina, Jim and Kris?
No. Every kid that’s coming in has gone out.
How do you do that? It isn’t cheap. Everything that you’ve mentioned that you do is expensive. A lot of kids would say, “I want to go and shoot an antelope in Wyoming or a whitetail in Wisconsin.” It doesn’t matter. Is it because people don’t know you? Why don’t you think that you’re not overwhelmed with requests?
We do a lot of outdoor shows and I’ll tell you that it’s super easy. For me, it’s easy to get out and get money to send to Tina. When I sit down with a mom and talk to mom, “Please go online and fill out this paperwork. It is easy and simple. This is what we do.” Moms are tough as nails. They say, “What? I’m not sure if I want my son or my daughter running around the woods or the hills in North Dakota or Colorado.” Moms are tough. They’re a tough cookie to crack. That’s for sure. It takes a lot of talk and a lot of time to get some of these kids to go. I’ve been working on one for three years here and mom is not ready to let her out of her grasp. She’s fighting cancer. She has battled it two times. She’s ten years old and mom is not ready to cut her loose with dad to go hunting. It’s harder to get kids and what you would think it is.The Hunt of a Lifetime is out there beating the bushed for the kids, giving them an actual opportunity of a lifetime. Click To Tweet
There’s not a kid that comes in that doesn’t go out, even if they come in and put online to go out. The only time they don’t get right out is if the season is closed. They’ve got to wait for the next season.
How do people reach Hunt of a Lifetime? Where does somebody go for the audience that says, “My kid has got eighteen months. If he doesn’t get a miracle in his life in eighteen months, he’s not going to be with us anymore.” How does somebody reach out and get a hold of you guys? What’s the process?
They go to www.HuntOfALifetime.org and hit on Youth Form. It’s right on the front page. Fill out the five pages. Get the doctor’s letter that says, “What this child has is considered life-threatening. He or she is 21 and under and fits your program. Here’s what he or she wants to do.” They get the form into us here at the main office in Harborcreek. I check the paperwork and make sure the paperwork is in order. Depending on what animal they want, I start hitting up my ambassadors, “Do you have a bear hunt or a black bear hunt? I know you’ve got a black bear offered in Michigan. Get a hold of the guy.”
Jim and Kris did that a few years ago. I get all the guys and let them know we have a child. Let’s get this child out with them. Jim and Kris handle the outfitter. Get the child, getting the dates confirmed and they get back to me and we finalize it here at the national office. I make sure they get their rifle, they line up with taxidermy, they’re getting their gift card from here, and making sure the travel agent knows all the information. She does. She’s been on board with us for years since and hasn’t charged us anything. The funny part about her is she doesn’t hunt her fish, her husband does and he hooked her.
Are you up on social media? On Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?
I have three Hunt of a Lifetime Facebook sites. One is Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation. The other one is Hunt of a Lifetime Western, PA and Hunt of a Lifetime Eastern, PA. There’s so much going on that we had to split the site, so we have enough coverage on both sides of Pennsylvania. We have other ambassadors when you punch in Hunt of a Lifetime, you’ll have Wisconsin. Jim and Kris, I don’t know if they got Michigan up yet. We have Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Washington. When you put Hunt of a Lifetime on Facebook, you’re going to see multitudes of them. The ones that host the kids have pictures of the kids up.
What I’ve got on the foundation page are hunts, thank yous, benefits going on, different things I’m doing, where I’m going to be at. On the Western PA, you’ll see things that are going on in Western PA for benefits and expos that were set up. The same thing with Eastern PA, you’ll see what the people over there and what our ambassadors are doing and what they’ve got going on. If you go to Facebook and punch in Hunt of a Lifetime, you’ll probably see about ten and it might even be higher than that because we have put some new ambassadors in place and they’re getting active on Facebook.
When we look at it, what’s your challenge for growth, Jim or Tina?
Spreading the word gets more people doing funding because as we get bigger, we’re getting more and more kids in so far. Thank the good Lord, we still have plenty of funding to keep them going out. We always want to work on funding. We’re getting louder and we’re getting more ambassadors out to Outdoor Sports shows. The kids will start picking up. Our lowest has been 50 or highest has been 77. It’s all been done with volunteers. Getting more awareness out there. My biggest goal, Kris and Jim will tell you is finding the kids. We worry about funding second. I don’t want any child out there that had the same dream as my child or as Jim and Kris’ child to miss it because they didn’t find out about it. My first goal is always getting the knowledge out there for kids to find us so we can take care of them. My second goal is to make sure we have the funding coming in to make sure that we never have to set it aside for the next year because we don’t have enough funds. We have done it for years without ever have to set a kid aside. The only time we’ve ever had to do it is if it came in after all the seasons were closed and the tags were already all gone.
We covered how to get involved. We covered the growth challenge and covered the background. Any final words, Jim, Kris or Tina?
What I am hoping is that Tina won’t ever get tired. I hope she’s not getting tired. I hope she stays strong in there because I’ll tell you she’s probably one of the most amazing women that I’ve met. It’s no joke. She goes and goes. She’s the energizer bunny. She’s always there and does a lot of work behind the scenes. She’s an amazing woman. Everything she does is for the kids. It’s not for Tina, it’s for the kids and she makes that well known.
I’m thinking that so are you, Jim and Kris, because of all of you’re doing in Michigan, the kids are finding us and the funds are coming in. I told my grant writer, “I’m the hub and if I didn’t have these folks and all of the ambassadors that do so much and they’re so active, the wheel would fall apart.” I might be the energizer bunny, as I’m told is ADHD. Without these folks, it wouldn’t do me any good. Ambassadors Jim and Kris, parents that have come on board, that’s what they are. Some of the ambassadors have never had a child. All the ambassadors in the 50 states and all the different people like Dan Wilhite, our grant writer and everybody doing everything as a family. We call it the Hunt of a Lifetime Family. Without the family, the hub in the middle can’t do much of anything without those folks. We hold the wheel together.Hunt of a Lifetime does not want any child out there to miss out on their hunting dreams. Click To Tweet
I wish you all the best. On behalf of over 500,000 readers to Whitetail Rendezvous over the last few years, it’s been an honor to chat with you guys. You guys have a super week and always reach out to me. If you need something, I might know somebody in the industry that can help you guys out.
That would be wonderful. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much, Bruce. Thanks for the opportunity to get on here and speak.
- Hunt of a Lifetime
- Youth Form tab – Hunt of a Lifetime
- Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Western, PA – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Eastern, PA – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Wisconsin – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Oregon – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Idaho – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Utah – Facebook
- Hunt of a Lifetime Washington – Facebook
About Tina Pattison
In 19 Years of the Hunt of a Lifetime foundation I volunteered all my time without a paycheck, And as of January of this year I have gone to just subbing as a replacement school bus driver when needed & finally let the foundation compensate me with a salary of $17,000 to retire from an everyday school bus run (that would be what I earned doing a regular route) so as to get out & do more public speaking during the weekdays for awareness at many levels of outreach. We celebrated 20 years June 4, 2019 as a Pennsylvania Charity & two months later August 2, 2019 our 20th Anniversary as a IRS approved National Charity.
My mother was a strong willed Irish, faith believing Role Model, who was diagnosed with cancer (non-curable Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma) 1/11/1984 at the age of 46, Her comment to the doctor that told her she had 6 months to live: Your not God, don’t tell me how long I got to live, when he’s ready then that’s when I will go. She took her faith & her strong Irish roots, decided to be a Guinea pig for testing new drugs on trial runs & lived 11 years, she died 1/22/1995 after a long hard battle & proving the drugs that accomplished something for the trouble it caused & the ones that weren’t worth the trouble of the side effects for what it didn’t accomplish. That same year, 9/11/1995 Matthew was diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer (curable but a rare form).
I proudly say that between her (Irish stubborness & faith) & ADHD-healthy & full of shit as she called it, growing up with 2 brothers & a lot of neighborhood boys who thought to treat me like one of them or I would need to go home that I have her strong willed Irish attitude.
I took on 6 boys (3-mine 3-his, & once married all 6 mine), raising them hunting, fishing, camping in tents, archery, tying flies (as dad worked 2nd shift so it was up to me to get them to their activity’s) hiking wood working & anything else a neighborhood of boys introduced their “sister” to, along with spending seven years on a family owned farm, I’m a whole different woman than some, I have a vast knowledge of special kids with special needs, outdoor adventures & experiences, I guess you can say God was molding me from the pastor who taught the bible to me in a language that I would get when I was in the first to third grades as to what it was all about, the Irish Mom who should us anything is possible if you put your mind to it & have faith, & a family closeness we grew up with to accepting family by “adoption” (Hunt of a Lifetime volunteers, kids, parents, fundraisers, all the different folks that put together the packages for the kids, etc) & just move forward thru any hurdle, trust God, pray & Love the family you inherit as your own. I have many parents whose kids have gone out, kids I coached & kids that I have driven on the bus, that call me MOM or Grandma, I go to their “special” events in their lives & I attend some of the funerals of the kids that their family has become my family (this is by all means is the hardest part of the Foundation-I’m a big crybaby). I have a wonderful younger sister (the exact opposite of me, who’s idea of camping is a hotel!!) who comforts me with words of wisdom when that part of the foundation comes up, to help me deal with that sad realism. I’m not a materialistic person-you can’t take it with you when you die, my best “paycheck” is the smiles on a kids face & the Thank You’s from family’s, God has truly blessed me with thousands of smiles on “bus” kids & family’s, with Special Olympic athletes smiles & Thank You’s, & over 1,000 smiles & Thank You’s from Hunt of a Lifetime recipients. Immensely blessed
Tina Pattison, President, Founder & Matt’s mom.
For my biography, not sure if this is good enough, it’s short & sweet. I grew up first born (dad wanted a son) & then two brothers, which dad then kept the 3 of us doing the fun boy stuff (I’m a tomboy not gay), I enjoyed street basketball, football & kickball with the neighbor boys, I grew up not liking drama.
I started babysitting for family members when I was 10 & then 12 I was allowed to babysit other kids-I guess I just put a lot of belief in the bible verse that says the most precious gift that God can give you is a child (not necessarily by birth) & what you do for that child is what is most important. I developed a love & faith going thru catholic school for 3 years (1-3rd grade) with a wonderful Pastor that explained the bible in the verbiage for the age of a child he was testifying/witnessing to.
From there I went on to married life, had 3 boys & inherited 3 more boys in which I love in the same manner as the ones I gave birth to. I spent 10 years as a Special Olympic Coach, Coaching Basketball & Floor Hockey, 2 of them years as Volleyball & Track & Fields & licensed in 5 sports as a back-up coach, 7 years on the Board of Directors for Erie County Special Olympics as the Fundraiser.
For the last 28 Years I have been a school bus Driver for K-12th grade & also for the Special Need runs, Sub aided in Special Need classes when needed.
I now Mentor a troubled teenage girl for the last year in a Mentor ship program.
About Jim and Kris Gilbert
Jim and Kris Gilbert Michigan Ambassadors. We have 3 children and 2 Grandchildren.
David was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia in 2006. For David to live out is life he needed a 100 % Bone Marrow match. We were all tested and his sister Melissa was a perfect match. David went through lots of hard chemo before the transplant could happen. We spent about 4 months at U of M hospital. After months of recovery with such a terrible blood disorder we were introduced to HOAL.
Jim and David came home from a successful hunt in Luna New Mexico. David Harvested a 350 inch class Bull Elk. We fell in love with the fact of HOAL making David’s dream come alive. At the point Jim said we need to give back and help HOAL. We became Ambassador’s in 2007 and David and Hope are Co-Ambassadors.
Our Grandchildren Alexis 14 and James 9 help with HOAL as much as possible! They enjoy going to the shows and making a difference in other people’s lives. They also love to tell their dads story of living a life to remember.
The Gilbert family!