I received an email from a gentleman who lives near Kansas City saying that he had heard me talking about the Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors, Inc. program on a radio program while he was driving through Chattanooga, TN. It seems he had been driving all night and had listened to Scott Linden’s outdoor show on one of the satellite radio stations. Bruce’s email outlined his vast experience in the outdoors and stated,
“I do believe God has now called me back to help minister to kids thru my vast experience of the outdoors.”
Now it’s not every day that you get an email from someone who feels like God has directed them to contact you and get involved in your program. And to be honest, I didn't get back to Bruce right away. But three days later, I got another email from him, stating,
I Gotta do this, please call me collect when you have time to talk.
I called Bruce that day and his sincerity came through in the conversation. I directed him to the local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency to get matched with a young man. After going through all of the background checks and screening, Bruce was matched to young George.
George was typical of many of the kids we try to get outdoors, living with his mother and siblings in a single-parent home. He wasn’t doing particularly well in school and was pretty much disinterested in things in general.
Things began to change once Bruce and George starting spending time together, hunting and fishing. George took a hunter education class and Bruce spent time with him at the range to develop his shooting skills.
After they had been matched for a few months, Bruce sent me the following email:
I just got a report from George’s mom. They had his first parent teacher conference this week. She said it was the best report he has ever gotten. George has five A's and three C's and he also just won the most improved kid award in P.E. class.
I guess the principal even told George’s mom that he didn't know where the "old George" has went to, because no one recognizes the "new George". He sits still in class, and pays attention to his teachers and has really made huge improvements over the years past.
Bruce and George attended a youth pheasant hunt hosted by the Pheasants Forever chapter in Abilene, KS. They also traveled to western Kansas to join us for the Mitch Telinde Memorial Pheasant Hunt near Garden City. That's some dedication, taking a trip all the way across Kansas, just to give a young man a chance to go pheasant hunting. George had a great time and expressed interest in doing more hunting.
Bruce shared hunting rights to a property near KC that held some pretty nice bucks. They had been trying to, unsuccessfully, to tag a particular 9-pointer that frequented the property that was really big, a real trophy. All through archery and muzzleloader season, they had been tracking his movements, but no one ever got a clear shot at him. Bruce asked the other hunters if he could take George deer hunting on the property when rifle season rolled around in December. No one had an objection.
That first morning of rifle season before the crack of dawn, Bruce and George were in the blind, waiting for things to happen. Despite all of the excitement, George managed to drift off to sleep! It wasn't long before the action got started. Bruce soon saw a nice doe moving in the distance. He nudged George awake to start getting him set up for a potential shot. Moments later, they saw that trailing the doe was the big 9-pointer everyone had been chasing all season long.
Bruce got George lined up on the big buck. George wasn't steady and wasn't quite sure of the shot at first. Bruce calmed him down and got him steady.
BOOM! Big Buck Down!
George’s mom didn't have the funds to pay to have the deer processed, so Bruce told him they would take it to Bruce’s house and do it all themselves. They skinned the deer and began deboning it. That is pretty different stuff for a young man who had never spent much time outdoors. But George was right there, helping in any way he could.
The buck was a big one. After an 8-hour job, they ended up with over 200 lbs of burger and steaks!
As they started grinding the venison into burger, George asked, “Would this burger be good in Hamburger Helper?” Bruce assured him it would be indeed! George replied, “That’s great! We've been eating lots of Hamburger Helper over the last few months, but we haven’t had any meat to put in it!”
I got a call from Bruce the Monday morning after their hunt. Bruce struggled with his emotions to tell me this story, stopping several times to regain his composure. I have to admit, I had tears in my eyes as I listened.
Unfortunately, George’s story isn't unique. There are many kids in every community growing up in difficult circumstances. But thanks to a caring man who stepped up to make a difference, George’s world is different…and better today. Thanks, Bruce!
And thanks to Cam & Company! Cam interviewed Pass It On - Outdoor Mentors president, Mike Christensen, on their live show on the Sportsmans Channel, giving us the opportunity to tell the story on-air.