Oregon Chapters Help Make a Dream Come True
By Wes Wittrock, Yamhill Chapter
Jessica Trotter, an 18-year-old from Liberty, South Carolina, was once a typical teenager who enjoyed doing the things that young girls do. But that all changed in May 2007.
It was just a day like any other day when Jessica decided to go skating outside, something she frequently enjoyed. But on this day she fell. Though she’d fallen before, this time the pain was more severe. Jessica thought she had broken her arm. Her mom took her to the doctor, but he found no broken bones.
However, Jessica’s arm continued to hurt, and her doctor eventually referred her to an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Moon, in Anderson. He noticed an unusual swelling in her upper arm, and following numerous tests and a biopsy, Jessica was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a bone cancer that affects about 250 children annually.
In November 2007, a surgeon removed Jessica’s tumor and replaced her humerus with an organ donor’s bone, and she started chemotherapy. In October 2008, after completing her chemo treatments, Jessica faced another hurdle when a blood test showed she had pre-cells of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated. Jessica’s only chance of survival would be to have a bone marrow transplant and another round of chemotherapy. Finally in 2010, after numerous setbacks and huge hurdles, Jessica was on her way to recovery.
During her time with Dr. Moon, he had introduced her to the Outdoor Dream Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants outdoor excursions for children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses. Jessica had a couple of friends that went on trips with this group and she thought it sounded like something she would like to do. When presented with the options, she decided she wanted to travel clear across the country and hunt for an elk in Oregon. She had never hunted a day in her life, but she’d always wanted to. Now was her chance.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Game offers 10 elk tags, 10 deer tags and five pronghorn antelope tags each year just for these types of programs. The elk tag is for September 1 through November 30, in any big game unit, with any legal hunting weapon. For the past six years, my mother-in-law Betsy Murphy, an RMEF volunteer with the Yamhill County Chapter and a member of the Oregon State Leadership Team, has worked with the Tillamook Chapter, Stimson Lumber Company and the Outdoor Dream Foundation to organize an annual elk hunt.
Jessica’s hunt took place near Tillamook from September 5-11, 2011. After arriving and getting unpacked, the hunting party (which included myself and six other volunteers from Stimson Lumber and the Tillamook and Yamhill chapters) went over the plans for the next morning’s hunt. We thought it best to first make sure that her Browning 7mm-.08 was still accurate after the long trip from South Carolina. After a little target practice we learned that because of Jessica’s limited use of her left arm, it was going to be difficult for her to hold the rifle up for very long. So as to not tire her too much before the serious hunting began, Jeff Dunn suggested Jessica use a lighter .22 rifle to practice her kill shot on the targets. After numerous rounds through the .22 and a good group from the 7mm-.08, we were confident that if she could keep her nerves under control, she would fill her tag.
Jessica did great trekking up and down the hills, pushing herself to keep going. She got to see it all, watching and listening to bulls bugling, screaming and grunting, cows barking and mewing, small bulls running to our cow calling, a big bull chasing a cow. She even watched her dad call in two cows that came running at him and stopped within nine feet.
After three days of morning and evening hunts Jessica finally killed a nice 7x7 Roosevelt’s elk. For her to choose her “Dream Hunt” to be in Oregon, and then kill a nice mature bull, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. While she was here, she touched so many people’s lives in different ways. We were honored to take part in Jessica’s hunt and look forward to making someone else’s dream come true next year.
For more information on The Outdoor Dream Foundation, visit www.outdoordream.org.