Young Volunteer Makes Himself Heard
By Kalie Tenenbaum, Bugle Intern
Conrad Johnson was 8 years old when he first started volunteering for Michigan’s Central Upper Peninsula Chapter. Age didn’t seem to hamper his hunger to help, and neither did the fact that he’s been deaf since birth.
“Conrad is a unique young man,” says committee member George Anderson. “He adds quite a bit of character to the committee. He fits right in.”
Although few committee members know sign language, Conrad makes himself understood through writing on paper or gesturing. “I like helping the Elk Foundation because it raises money for good things,” Conrad says. “I also like the camaraderie with my friends on the committee. I like being with people who like to hunt and like the outdoors.”
Conrad got involved with RMEF when his father Tom joined the committee. Tom says he initially brought him to the meetings to spend some father/son time together. But almost immediately Conrad took an interest in volunteering, and before long was helping out at fundraising events. A major fixture at banquets, Conrad helps set up, acts as prize runner and helps the auctioneer spot bids in the crowd.
Tom’s interest in the Elk Foundation stemmed from a hunting trip in Colorado that left him itching to conserve elk country. He became an RMEF member in the early 1990s and has been a volunteer for eight years.
“Like father, like son; that’s how my son became involved too. We hunt together, fish together. We do everything together,” Tom says. Conrad is now 16 and Tom plans to take him on his first elk hunt this fall.
Conrad’s commitment to RMEF has touched many on the committee. “I met Conrad shortly after he was born,” says chapter founder and committee member Gary Maynard. “Conrad loves to be outdoors and to be with his dad, and is always excited to go hunting.”
He adds that when Conrad attended his first banquet with Tom, he immediately wanted to lend a hand. “He was a little shy at first, but obviously wanted to help,” Maynard says. “Conrad has always had a way of communicating. I remember he came up to me and tugged on the back of my shirt and lifted his hands as if to say, ‘What can I do?’ It was his first time there and all he wanted to do was help out.”