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Longbeards take kids hunting (video)

Kai France, 12, keeps an eye out for turkeys while eating a snack on break from hunting Saturday, May 5, 2012 in a field North of Lyle.

Sometimes even the simplest tasks can be daunting for kids with terminal illnesses or disabilities.

Enjoying the outdoors can seem insurmountable, which is difficult in Minnesota, where hunting and fishing are a way of life for so many people.

Thanks to the time and effort of some dedicated folks, 10 kids recently got to take part in a turkey dream hunt in the area. Three weekends ago saw the culmination of fundraisers and planning with the smiling faces of some young hunters.


"Hopefully, we’re giving the kids a good experience," said Linden Anderson, a member of the Cedar River Longbeards, the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which sponsored the hunt. "It’s the kids’ hunt, and you want to give them a good time."

This is the second year the Longbeards have sponsored a dream hunt, an idea that was brought forward by two members who had belonged to an NWTF chapter in Illinois. That chapter, along with others across the country, work with the United Special Sportsman Alliance to give disabled and terminally ill children a chance to do something they might not otherwise get the chance to.

"I guess it just touched the right nerve in me," Anderson said of the concept.

The Longbeards used money from a raffle, the auction of Minnesota Twins tickets and grants from the state turkey federation to fund the event, including food and a place to stay at Miracle Lodge in Stewartville. Longbeard members donated money, time and land in Spring Valley, LeRoy, Lansing, Brownsdale, and south of Austin for kids to track turkeys.

"First, we stopped at Cabela’s (in Owatonna) and they outfitted the kids with camouflage and boots and everything they needed," said Doug O’Brien, a member of USSA from Ham Lake, whose  brother is the USSA representative in Minnesota. O’Brien was a guide on the Longbeards’ hunt. "I have a lot of fun doing it. I get nothing out of it other than seeing a smile on their face."

O’Brien was a chaperon to Kai France, 12, of Floodwood. Kai was one of four adopted siblings who took part in the hunt. Kai’s sisters, Hana, 15, Mia, 12, and Stevey, 11 have all been hunting for a few years and love it, said their mom, Susan France.

"They love the outdoors," France said. "They love the people that take them. The people are always so wonderful. The guides, they make them (kids) feel special."

The France family had been introduced to the O’Briens at a shooting event in Forest Lake and were asked if the kids would want to take part in the Longbeards hunt. The family has taken part in other events, hunting animals such as bear and deer. Hana, who has incomplete arms and hands and is deaf, liked the turkey hunt in southern Minnesota the best.


"The turkeys are prettier, they have different colors," Hana said. "I like to see the different animals and how they call."

"It gives the kids a wonderful opportunity," said Susan France. "It gives them a lot of self-confidence. I think it will be a lifelong thing. It allows them to be a part of life in Minnesota."

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