Brian Scott Pathfinder Program
Pathfinder – “One who discovers a way into or through unexplored regions.”
When an individual is faced with overcoming a physical challenge or disability that is capable of blocking their routine way through life (including hunting), he or she must discover previously unexplored regions of self-esteem, self-worth, courage, persistence, and determination. Through trial and error, success and failure, the pathfinder, with a “never-quit” attitude, works hard to discover his or her own way through life. Each year since 2010, the southern Utah chapter of Safari Club International has sought out such a young man or woman to honor them as pathfinders.
These young hunters have overcome significant odds to just be where they are today. Most of them are between the ages of 12-20 and have a life threatening disease or terminal illness that they are battling. We decided as a chapter that we wanted to create an amazing hunting experience for these young Pathfinders so that they could, for five days or so, forget about their personal battle and enjoy the great outdoors hunting with their families.
Needless to say, our beginning was pretty humbling. Not only did we not have a lot of funding, but we also didn’t know of any kids that qualified, so to speak, and we didn’t know what hunting resources were available for us to access as well. However, as we got working on it, things started coming together.
Each year, our chapter holds an annual banquet the first week of March. Some of the money that we raise from the banquet goes to fund the hunts for our Pathfinders. The support that we have received from our chapter members, sponsors, community, outfitters, and the state of Wyoming, has been amazing. Through their generous donations of time and money, we have been able to start building once-in-a-lifetime hunts for these young folks. Now we just needed to find some recipients.
Our committee started calling every middle and high school from Nephi to St. George. We talked to the school counselors and told them what we were doing and for whom we were looking. Most of them thought it was a hoax. They couldn’t believe that we would take a sick kid hunting for five days with his/her family and pay for the whole thing. Each year, we have been lucky to have found an amazing kid to whom we have given the Pathfinder award. These young folks have battled cerebral palsy, grand mal seizures, ALL, liver cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hydrocephalus, and kidney failure. They don’t have the greatest stamina, strength or eyesight, but I have never seen youngsters that were more excited to be on a hunt with their families than these amazing kids. For a few days, they forgot about their personal health battle and put all of their determination and excitement into their hunt. We literally witnessed miracles on these trips.
When selecting a young hunter, we only contacted the mother of the hunter. We wanted everything to be a surprise for the hunter and the family, especially the fathers. Therefore, we would coordinate with the moms to make up some excuse as to why the family needed to travel to St. George in March to attend the banquet. The reasons were all quite novel, but in the end, the family would show up to this banquet not knowing what was going on and wondering why they were there. As the banquet started and the presentation began, I always liked to watch the dad’s reactions. Most of the time, they were more excited about the award and hunts than the kids. The moms were excited, because the cat was finally out of the bag and they could enjoy and share the excitement with their family.
Our pathfinder award is called the Brian Scott Pathfinder award. Brian Scott was from Hurricane, UT. He was a state champion wrestler and the star running back for Hurricane High School that won the state championship in 2012. We selected him as our 2013 pathfinder. Unfortunately, the cancer that he was battling took his life before we could take him on his hunt to Wyoming. We wanted to do something special for him and his family to honor him. With the permission from his mom and dad, we named our pathfinder award after him.
This is now our 6th year in doing the pathfinder hunts. We have given eight kids the Pathfinder award. Each of them are truly amazing. I have often said that I have the best role in our chapter. After spending time hunting with each of them and their families, you really get to know and love them. Words cannot describe the emotions that go through your heart as you watch them experience these hunts.
One girl in particular had a very moving story.
My name is Megan Larsen. I was born August 19, 1999 in St. George Utah. I have lived in the same house in Veyo, Utah my entire life. I had a pretty normal infancy until I was about 20 months old. My mom took me to my pediatrician, because she was concerned about my stomach always feeling tight and protruding abnormally. My mom, Raquel, was pregnant and worried, thinking I might have a stomach virus or some other illness, and wanted to clear it up before the baby came. After seeing the doctor, they sent us directly to the hospital for scans. The only thing the nurse could tell us when the scans were done was the radiologist was looking at them and calling my pediatrician, Dr.Twiggs. He made me an appointment the next morning at 8 am at Primary Children’s Hospital with an oncologist. We met with the oncologist and did the testing and he confirmed that I had cancer.
Three days after my first surgery, I had my first round of systemic chemotherapy. I was good during the 1st treatment, no sickness until a few days later when I got sick and ran fevers.
After several procedures and a couple more rounds of systemic chemotherapy (and my hair falling out), they found a spot on my lungs. They thought the cancer might have spread making it impossible to do the transplant, which would have changed the plan of treatment. When they did the scan, they found that it was a bacterial infection, so they did surgery and cut a little piece of my lung out so they could let it heal and then do the transplant.
On September 26th the Doctors tried to take the tumor out. During the resection surgery, I started to bleed and was given 52 units of blood and plasma. I also had to have my heart restarted. The surgery started at 7 am and they worked on me until about 10:30 pm that night. The doctors came to tell my mom and dad that they had done all they could do, it was up to me now. I was put in intensive care and they were able to come in and see me. After finding out that there might still be cancer in my liver, the decision was made to do a liver transplant. I had a liver transplant on October 1, 2001 at the ripe old age of two.
Other than a few bumps along the way, I have only had one stay in the hospital since my transplant. I’ve done very well. My follow up care consists of meds twice daily; blood draws every 3 months, and a visit to Primary Children’s Hospital one time per year to see my doctors. I’m now 15 years old and will be in the 11th grade at Enterprise High School. I will turn 16 in August. On October 1 of this year, I will celebrate 14 years since my transplant.
I have not let my cancer or transplant hold me back at all. I love riding horses and I do rodeos. I also participate in the Dixie Junior Livestock Show where, for the last eight years, I have shown and sold hogs that I have raised and cared for. I have also gone to the Transplant Games, which are Olympic style competitions for transplant recipients. I have won medals all four times I have gone. They are held all over the United States. I had the opportunity to speak to a large auditorium of people when I was only five years old while at one of the games, and I have met a lot of great people. I have also participated in the St. George Relay for Life and had the opportunity to speak at the Relay for Life in Cedar City. I was the Veyo Rodeo Princess attendant in 2012 and was the Veyo Rodeo Princess of 2014. I have loved riding in rodeos and the parades. I participate in High School Rodeo, in which I do barrel racing and pole bending. I love to go hunting with family and friends. My sisters and I can usually beat all the boys when we go skeet shooting. I love to go camping with family and friends.
At the annual banquet for the southern Utah chapter of SCI I was awarded the Brian Scott pathfinder award. I was given the commissioners tag for the state of Wyoming. The commissioner’s tag included tags for antelope, elk, and mule deer. In April of 2014 I was given a Remington .270 and started practicing shooting to get ready for the hunt. Later that year, on September 29th, we loaded up and headed for Wyoming to go hunting. On September 30th, after enjoying snow, rain and wind, I shot my antelope at 481 yards. The antelope scored 71 5/8. Then on October 1st, the 13th anniversary of my transplant, we braved more wind and cold weather and I killed my elk with one shot at 130 yards. The elk scored 321. We came home for a couple of weeks then went back up for the deer hunt. On October 25th I killed my deer at 140 yards. What an amazing experience!
At the next banquet for the southern Utah chapter of SCI, I was presented with my elk mount. Words cannot express the level of gratitude my family and I feel towards all of those involved with these incredible hunts. My family and I would like to thank the southern Utah chapter of SCI and everyone involved for the great time we had on this hunt.
By: Megan Larsen
In addition to these kids being walking miracles, I have to mention the generosity of many who make these hunts possible. The state of Wyoming has a wonderful program that our chapter has been able to utilize for these hunts. They offer commissioner hunting tags to kids who have a life threatening or terminal illness that are sponsored by a non-profit organization. The people that we have worked with at the Wyoming Game and Fish have been nothing short of amazing. We can’t thank them enough for working with us.
Furthermore, sometimes we have special situations where kids don’t qualify for the Wyoming tags for whom we want to do something. Such was the case a few years ago. I reached out to a mother whose son suffered from seizures and was legally blind. His grandfather, dad and brother all had animals that they had harvested hanging on the wall at home, and this young hunter’s dream was to get a trophy of his own. But, the chance of him being able to harvest an animal was slim to none. Through a generous donation from Royal Pointe Ranch in Marysvale, UT, this young hunter was able to hunt an elk because of the special regulations on the ranch and harvested a great bull elk. He finally got his very own trophy on his wall.
This year, we have received a donation from an outfitter in Alaska who is providing a caribou hunt for our 2015 pathfinder hunter and his dad. Other generous donations from local merchants, like Buck’s Ace Hardware in Hurricane, and others include: binoculars, optics, custom-made guns and ammunition, and a beautiful stand made by Mike Hall to mount our pathfinder’s game from Millard elk, deer and antelope. That is not all, we have received cash, food from Pizza Factory and Lin’s, fuel, and time.
Each year I think, “There is no way we can top that!” Of course, inevitably, the next year’s Brian Scott Pathfinder award recipient is as amazing as the ones before and their families are amazing too. Each year, we get excited to take another kid out on an awesome hunt. The goal that we set, I think, is being achieved. There are some kids out there whose dream is to go on a hunt of a lifetime, and our southern Utah Chapter of SCI is making their dreams come true.
BY: Southern Utah chapter of Safari Club International