Southern Hospitality at Outdoor Friends Forever Family Deer Hunt

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by Dan O’Sullivan

Registration and Welcome Dinner at the Holman Family's Lodge - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Registration and Welcome Dinner at the Holman Family’s Lodge – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

There’s something about the people of the state of Alabama.  I haven’t met too many people in the world who derive so much pride from where they live as if the soil underneath their footprints has provided them with a confidence that those elsewhere could not understand.

Roll Tide, War Eagle divide them for sure, yet the state unites them.  Amongst them beats a heart that seeks to share, to provide for others, and to serve.  The men-folk do so with a stern sensibility that belies the passion inside, and the women-folk do so as if their very self worth is bolstered by taking care of someone else, and doing it as if they truly enjoy it.

There are other people I’ve met around the country who exhibit the same traits; however, the folks from Outdoor Friends Forever may quite possibly be the most giving group I have ever encountered.  From top to bottom, they – and businesses, landowners and individuals from across the state – all unite around providing people an opportunity.

Those opportunities revolve around giving special needs children the chance to experience the thrill of the outdoors.  The groups’

Grayson Sights in His Rifle - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Grayson Sights in His Rifle – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

motto is, “We pair people with special needs to people with special talents and they form a bond outdoors that lasts forever.”  In doing so, they give so much of their hearts it’s remarkable.

I’ve seen it before with OFF.  Last December I was invited to attend their Family Deer Hunt in December, and I was surprised by the amount of people who come.  I heard that they had seven kids attending the hunt and envisioned a deer camp with a few adults around to help.  What I found was a much larger production.

The registration and welcome dinner saw more than 100 people there on top of the families of the hunters; and I admitted to my friend who is one of the founders that I was taken by surprise.  This year, I knew what to expect, and I was still speechless as it all came together.

First Day Success for Seth and Carson - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

First Day Success for Seth and Carson – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

With eight hunters and their families here this year, an abundance of guides (local hunters) who volunteered to come and help host the hunters as they attempted to wait out a deer that they could harvest.  Along with that group, more manned the kitchen, local landowners donated their land, business donated goods and money and a whole group of people who have earned the right to sit back and put their feet up served tirelessly throughout the weekend.

None of them want recognition for what they do, they just simply want to share what they have and the love of what they do with a group of youths that might not be able to experience the excitement of hunting or fishing in the outdoors.  OFF, their friends and volunteers provide them those opportunities to do it in a safe environment with plenty of help and companionship.

They start with gun and hunter safety training and a session on the range to get used to the weapons before they enter the woods and shooting houses.  Several of them experienced the thrill of a successful hunt, some the letdown of missed opportunities, but all enjoyed the experience.

OFF does this several times a year.  They organize two deer hunts and several fishing trips throughout the year, all with the intent of sharing.  They fish from the shore and from boats in the spring and the fire state of the art weapons wearing gear donated by sporting goods stores and purchased with donated money.

The Hunters and Their Guides after the Second Day Hunt - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

The Hunters and Their Guides after the Second Day Hunt – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Their full intent is to share, to give of themselves and to share their heart with the youngsters.  They do all of that of course, but they also do it for so many more.  People, like myself, who attend and get blessed just by being in the proximity of the spirit with which they serve.

The thing is, they would never ask for anything in return for what they do.  They ask for no recognition, nor do they want any sort of compensation for what they do.  Their intent is purely to give; to share the love they have for others with a healthy dose of Southern Hospitality.

To find out more about Outdoor Friends Forever, or to volunteer to be at one of the hunts or fishing outings, visit them at www.outdoorfriendsforever.org.