The Mid Carolina Branch hosted an outdoor education event for youth with special needs in June at Branch President Trey Harrell’s Farm. The Branch partnered with Leo’s Pride Foundation to help with outdoor education and funding for youth with rare diseases. The foundation was named for Leo Bugenske, who suffers from the rare disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
The event started with a hay ride to ten different stations on the property. The first station was Blue Sky Tree Care, who topped and fell trees for the youth. There was a horsemanship station with Kate Jenkins and Saylor Harrell, where the youth were able to ride and pet the horses. A bobcat with a brush cutter from Carolina Brush Cutting was used as a demo and they cut and cleaned up a large area. The youth were treated to quail petting, with a history discussion about the birds, and flushing demonstrations with dogs by Branch President Trey Harrell. Lakeside Kennels did a retriever demonstration and the youth were able to pet the dogs. Mark Clement provided a wild game food tasting station consisting of turkey, deer, quail and dove. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources had a 3D archery range for the youth with a bear, deer and coyote. Saluda Shoals had pelts, antlers, bones and other items from the outdoors that the youth were able to touch and feel. The Black River Search & Rescue Team had dogs there for the youth to pet and play with. The final stop was a chance for the youth to catch fish from a pond on the property.
Participants received QDMA hats, koozies, cups and Quality Whitetails magazines. The event had twenty one youth in attendance with about half of those having special needs. There were over forty volunteers from the Branch and local businesses that helped make the day successful. The day ended with a lunch for all of the participants, parents, volunteers and presenters.
“One of our goals with Leo’s Pride Foundation is to be involved in unique events for exceptional kids like our son Leo, and to help connect families to the experience,” said Adam Bugenske, Leo’s father. “We could not have found a better partner than the QDMA Mid-Carolina branch to bring this event to life. Their patience and focus on meeting the specific need of each child allowed for a fun day on Harrell Farm, learning about the outdoors and our responsibility to care for it. You know the QDMA group nailed it when every parent is coming up to you at the end to say they can’t wait to do it again!”