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Help bring nature into lives of special children

There are lots of good people in this world who are trying to make a difference. One such person is Brigid O'Donoghue, president of United Special Sportsmen's Alliance. USAA is a grassroots, nonprofit Christian charity dedicated to providing America's seriously ill or disabled children with hunting, fishing and outdoor adventures of a lifetime.

USAA's mission is to provide every terminally ill and disabled child the opportunity to live his or her dream by experiencing an unforgettable free outdoor adventure. It turns away no child, regardless of ethnicity, illness, disability or circumstance.

Brigid knows the meaning of battling life-threatening afflictions. When she was 10 months old, she contracted viral encephalitis, which left her with a seizure disorder and speech impairment. At age 20, she had brain surgery, with the hope of alleviating the seizures that weren't controlled with medication.

Through her own life experiences, she found solace in nature; she found that nature could provide life-changing experiences. That changed her life. Moreover, she knew that if nature could change her life for the better, it held the possibility of doing the same for others.

What better than to help kids enjoy our American hunting and fishing heritage?

Therefore, in 2000 she pulled together a team of volunteers and founded United Special Sportsmen's Alliance. USAA works with an international network of donors, including landowners, preserve owners, ranchers, outfitters, fishing-lodge operators, boat owners and campground owners, as well as corporate and individual sponsors. One such sponsor is the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, dedicated to providing aid to disadvantaged and disabled children of Mississippi.

Organizations like USAA are needed because certain high-profile “wish-granting” organizations have ceased honoring America's hunting heritage. Says Brigid, “Our nation's terminally ill and disabled children have both physical and emotional mountains to climb. Often, they dream about experiencing our outdoor heritage, but unfortunately many politically correct activist groups have successfully shut the door to these children's dreams in many other fine wish-granting charities.”

Since September 2000, USAA has granted more than 3,500 dream adventures. A parent, family member, guardian or caretaker is always welcome and encouraged to participate. All hunting and fishing trips are donated by independent landowners, game ranchers, shooting preserves (large and small), guide outfitters and caring individuals.

For some program recipients, their trips were the high points of their lives. For a few, the experience seemed to tip the scale in their favor. Words cannot describe the emotions seen on children's faces after their first encounter with a whitetail or a group of mallards or a big bass. In most cases, these precious experiences would never have been possible without USAA.

To date, the hunts have been quite varied: deer, elk, bear, hog, turkey, deer and bison. USAA welcomes all types of hunting and fishing experiences. Hunts have included individuals who are in wheelchairs, recovering from a lung transplants, have cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or spinal bifida, are visually impaired, and are paralyzed.

USAA is getting more donations everyday and try to match them up to special kids as quickly as they can. It needs your help with donations of any kind and in recruiting more terminally ill or disabled kids that would be interested in a trip of this kind.

If you know of a terminally ill or disabled child who would like a special dream wish answered, or if you would like to be a member and or sponsor, view USAA's Web site at

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