Deer hunt planned as thank you for wounded vets

September 12, 2013 at 09:32 PM

Six disabled veterans will spend a week in central Illinois on a special hunt held in their honor this fall.

The 2013 Sugar Grove Nature Center & HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes is a new event developed by Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police Officer Matt Graden and his hunting partner Tom Huffington.

The veterans will participate in a one-day pheasant and quail hunt before spending three days hunting deer.

The event includes a Warrior Banquet and send-off at week’s end.

Dates for the event are Nov. 6-11. Hunts will take place in Logan and McLean counties.

Graden said four of the disabled veterans are coming from Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and two are coming from Fort Knox.

The Illinois partners are teaming up with HOOAH (Healing Outside of a Hospital), an organization that tries to get disabled veterans away from the environment of hospitals and physical therapy.

“They’ve got no money, no budget,” Graden said. “They are just trying to send (the veterans) off base and out of the hospital.”

Graden and Huffington have raised most of the funds they need to bring the veterans to Illinois.

“I am passionate about it,” Graden said. “I was in the Illinois Air National Guard 183rd Fighter Wing for six years out of Springfield.”

He said the hunt is just one way to say thanks.

“Because of their sacrifice they have created the way of life we are able to live here,” Graden said.

He said primary support for the event has come from the McLean County Sportsman’s Association, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Double Tree by Hilton in Bloomington and the Sugar Grove Foundation.

“We have been really moved by the support this event has received from individuals and the community,” he said. “One of goals is we want to send (the veterans home) with clothing and gear provided for them.”

So far, fundraising has been conducted primarily by word-of-mouth, Graden said.

For more information, contact Graden at (309) 846-9781 or Huffington at (309) 830-3313, or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

“We want to feed them well, lodge them well, and socialize with them,” he said, “in exchange for their service to our country.”

Chris Young can be reached at 341-8487 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.