In Alabama, hunting and fishing feels like a birthright with outdoor places and opportunities so plentiful. Many are introduced to these activities at a young age and enjoy them the rest of their lives.
But what about those children who are unable to hunt or fish because illness, injury or other impairment makes it too challenging?
Carol and Rick Clark answered that question by founding the Kidz Outdoors.
“My husband is an avid turkey hunter and was asked to guide a little boy with cancer during the hunt,” Carol said. “On the way home, we stopped the car because we had tears running down our face. We knew this was our calling, and our lives were changed that day.”
Kidz Outdoors serves children like 15-year-old Colby Harris, who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). Harris is extremely passionate about the non-profit.
“Kids Outdoors has made a huge impact on my life,” he said. “Before I didn’t really get to do much outdoors, and I’ve never been that adventurous. I’ve made a lot of friends, it’s very special.”
Colby’s father, Ronnie Harris, Heard about Kidz Outdoors at church and enrolled Colby in the program.
“This was about a year ago. The trip was actually canceled a couple times because Colby was too sick to go, and the Clarks were so patient with rearranging schedules and working with us. We finally got to go on the trip six months ago, and we had a blast,” Ronnie Harris said.
Another child who has enjoyed Kidz Outdoors is Rhae Busby, whose mother Dana loves what the program has done for her daughter.
“Since we started attending, Kidz Outdoors has been amazing for our family,” she said. “We have always enjoyed hunting and fishing, but we never thought Rhae would be able to do it. She has Brittle Bone Disease. Now she’s been able to go hunting and fishing. My other son has found a love for turkey hunting through Carol and Rick. They have become like a family to us.”
Sharing the outdoors with children is not the only goal for Kidz Outdoors. The program’s mission includes: “Forming bonds by linking family and friends to pass on our passion for the outdoors to a new generation and raising funds for hospitals and research centers in hope to find cures for cancer and other childhood diseases.”
“We literally build families with Kidz Outdoors,” Carol said. “We keep in touch with the child and their family for years after they hunt or fish with us. In November, we took 88 kids on a hunt and (the year before that) 150 on the same hunt. We have chapters across the Southeast, and there is never a charge for a child and their family to come hunt.”
Carol’s husband Rick Clark sums up the entire story of Kidz Outdoors with a memory of his father.
“My dad told me I hunted and fished too much,” he said. “If he was still here, I could tell him that I now use my hunting and fishing experience to touch the lives of these kids. To me, what we do with these kids is priceless.”
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected]