This article was written by Nancy Tarnai about Julie's trip.
While some children with terminal illnesses dream of trips to amusement parks, Julie's hope was
to go moose hunting in Alaska.
She got her wish and her moose.
The 11 year old Julie, a wisp of a girl from Wyoming who has pulmonary hypertension and is in need
of heart and lung transplants, bagged a 50 inch bull moose while hunting in the Interior this week. (This was faxed to Tina
"I was so proud of her," said her father Jeff. "She took her time. She got three shots and two of
them were perfect."
The hunt was arranged through Hunt of a Lifetime, an organization similar to Make-A-Wish Foundation
that provides terminal children with trips they've dreamed of taking.
Julie's trip was arranged by Fairbanks hunter Jim McCann, the former Alaska State Tripper and an
avid upland game bird hunter who volunteered to be Alaska's representative for Hunt of a Lifetime after discovering the organization
on the internet.
"I didn't think I could pull it off," McCann said. "But it's the right thing to do. If a dreadfully
sick child wants to go hunting, it's a worthy cause."
"All of us should help her."
Both McCann and Julie received plenty of help.
Longtime Fairbanks hunter and airboater Lee "Skip" Olsen volunteered to serve as guide for Julie
after reading in the News-Miner about Julie's desire to go moose hunting a month ago. He transported Julie to his moose hunting
camp south of Fairbanks in an airboat.
A local retired physician accompanied Julie into the field. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital donated
oxygen and supplies that go with it.
River's Edge Resort donated a cottage for Julie's family to stay while in Fairbanks
After Gov. Tony Knowles turned down McCann's request for a complimentary non-resident moose tag,
the Interior Alaska Airboaters Association stepped in to buy the $400 tag for Julie.
All expenses for the trip were covered by donation, McCann said. Hunt of a Lifetime took care of
the airplane tickets, these were donated by Boyd Iverson of Eugene, Oregon. The only remaining items are a bit of taxidermy
work and shipping fees for the antlers and meat to Wyoming.
Staying in a cabin at Olsen's moose camp, Julie had a generator to run her oxygen tank, which she
needed only once during her five day hunt. The hunters spent five days looking for a moose and it wasn't until Tuesday that
they found a legal bull to shoot. Even then, it was only the beginning.
Julie's two shots didn't kill the moose and after hours of searching for the wounded animal in the
rain, the party gave up. Rain was washing the blood tracks away and Julie was getting exhausted. Her family returned to Fairbanks
on Wednesday, disheartened and disappointed that the bull had eluded them.
Meanwhile, Olsen and Co. persisted in tracking the moose. By Wednesday evening, they had found the
animal, just in time to get back to Fairbanks before Julie and her family flew out on Thursday morning.
Julie's father Jeff had nothing but praise for the people who made the trip possible.
"Jim McCann is one of the most honorable men I ever met," Jeff says. "If it were not for him we
would have felt insecure."
Julie was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with her disease, and she has since endured numerous
surgeries and hospital stays. "Nothing can be done," Jeff says about his daughter's condition. "She needs a heart and lung
transplant. We are waiting for medical technology and for medicine that would fight off problems from a lung transplant."
Julie grew up hunting small game with her dad. She began target shooting with a single shot .22
Chipmunk when she was 6 and has graduated from Hunter Safety Courses. She is a pretty fair shot with a bow and arrow too,
and has won many awards in archery shooting contests. But children in Wyoming can't hunt big game until they're 12.
That's where Hunt of a Lifetime entered the picture. The organization was founded 2 years ago by
Tina Pattison of Pennsylvania, whose dying stepson's last wish was to shoot a moose in Canada. Make-a-Wish board of directors
revered its policy and prohibited chapters from granting wishes involving hunting, shooting or sport-shooting equipment, including
archery gear. Make-A-Wish officials claimed the change was made for safety reasons, not because of pressure from animal-rights
Pattison's son got his hunt and moose, thanks to the generosity of an outfitter and a small town
in Alberta, Canada, six months before he died of cancer, but the experience demonstrated the need for an organization similar
to the Make-A-Wish Foundation but dedicated solely to hunting and fishing.
"I'm upset with animal rights activists who can't think of a child's needs before their own beliefs,"
Pattison said. "Not every child wants to go to Disney World."
Julie is the group's 12th hunter and its second girl.
"She's a good little shot," McCann said. "She was a little nervous. It was challenging but aren't
hunts always? A hunt never has any guarantees with it. We pushed it to the last minute."
Make-A-Wish and other similar organizations have promised to refer hunting requests from sick children
to Hunt of a Lifetime, Pattison said.
A shy, quiet girl, Julie didn't want to discuss her medical condition, but said she will always
remember her Laskan hunt. Julie wanted to come here because the moose are bigger and she just wanted to see the state.
"It's pretty," she said timidly.
The low altitude in the Interior helped Julie, her father reported, so much so that he is thinking
of relocating his family here.
"It's not a matter of if, it's when," Jeff said as he and Julie got ready to board their plane home
Thursday. "We're going to have to move. The doctors say sea level is better for her."
In spite of her health issues, Julie displayed exceptional stamina, her father said. But Thursday
afternoon, as she prepared for the long flight, Julie was anxious to get home to her mother, brother and sister. "I missed
the first day of school," she said with a grin. She planned to share details of the hunting trip with her classmates.
Hunt of a Lifetime is growing by leaps and bounds, Pattison said. On top of the 12 children who
have been sent on hunting and fishing trips, 20 more are waiting their turn.
Alaska has proven the toughest nut for Pattison to crack, as it's a popular request from children
and she's had a difficult time finding guides willing to donate their time.
Two sick brothers are on the waiting list for an Alaska moose hunt next year. "Any outfitters who'd
like to jump on board are welcome," Pattison said.
To contact Hunt of a Lifetime call (814) 899-5682, (866) 345-4455 or write 6297 Buffalo Road, Harborcreek,