Illinois Hosts ‘Dream Hunt’ for Veterans and Disabled Youth

by Lauren Boisvert
(Image Credit: Splendens/Getty Images)

An organization in Illinois is hosting an inclusive hunting experience for people of all backgrounds and abilities to be able to participate in hunting season. The United Special Sportsman Alliance hosted the Dream Hunt recently. This is an opportunity for veterans and disabled youth to experience southern Illinois deer hunting.

People come from all over to participate in the Dream Hunt. This year, hunters came from South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, according to WPSD out of Kentucky. The United Special Sportsman Alliance hosts many different hunts, like raccoon, pheasant, and boar. But this year’s Dream Hunt coincided with deer season.

“It was really fun,” Bryonna Dunning, who participated in the hunt, told WPSD. “It’s honestly—it’s my first deer, my first hunting trip, so I think it was really fun, and it was a good memory to have.”

There were also more experienced hunters there as well. “It’s pretty fun to be honest, to get away and go hunting for a while,” said Bobbi Finney. “It was exciting. It wasn’t my first time, but I’ve also gone bear hunting and others over too.”

The Dream Hunt started 20 years ago, and there are some volunteers that have been there since its inception. Ron McCarthy is one such volunteer. “It’s great every year, but I’ve seen, like, four kids get their first deer, and there’s nothing better than that,” he said.

United Special Sportsman Alliance Shares Hunting Experience with Disabled Youth and Veterans

The United Special Sportsman Alliance is completely volunteer-led and is a non-profit “dream wish” granting organization. They provide unique hunting and fishing experiences for critically ill or disabled youth and veterans. They aid in sharing the joy that those moments can bring. Whether they’re experienced hunters or have never bagged a single deer, the USSA provides relief from reality and a new experience.

According to their website, the USSA aims to help families escape from the “mundane, man-made world of hospitals, and high medical bills by giving them a place of peace to focus on the quality of life, family ties, and the wonders of our natural world.”

Brigid O’Donoghue, CEO and founder of Dream Hunt, told WPSD that the participants mean everything to the organization. It’s all about helping them make memories with their families in the great outdoors. “They always go away with a wonderful feeling,” said O’Donoghue, “and there’s never been an event that you haven’t seen a child smile, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

In addition to providing youth and veterans with a unique experience, the USSA is also dedicated to conservation and the preservation of natural resources. They also aim to promote a more positive public view of hunters and anglers through their conservation efforts and awareness.