Organization brings kids with life-threatening illnesses outdoors

The United Special Sportsman Alliance is a nonprofit organization bringing kids and veterans with life-threatening illnesses and disabilities outdoors.

The USSA began in 2000 and since has brought more than 10,000 kids outdoors for hunting and fishing trips.

Fifteen-year-old Nick Pahl wouldn’t consider himself much of a hunter, but wanted to give it a try. Thirteen-year-old Nathaniel Powell loves to hunt. But their desire to hunt pheasant isn’t the only thing that brought the two, along with two others, to Badgerland Pheasant Farm in Westby Saturday; it’s also the fact that both are battling cancer.

Nick has Burkitt’s lymphoma; Nathaniel has thyroid cancer.

The two said opportunities to get outdoors and spend time with people going through something similar feels good.

“I feel like we’re kind of in the same boat just trying to get done what we want to get done and just enjoying what we can,” Nick said.

“Just coming on these kinds of hunts and everything that the USSA has for opportunities is just kind of nice to take your mind off of things and just have fun,” Nathaniel said.

Roger Carlson is the taxidermy coordinator of Wisconsin for the USSA. He helps organize the hunting and fishing outings throughout Wisconsin and part of Illinois.

“These kids go through so much and it’s constant, they’re constantly getting bombarded, they don’t feel well, there’s appointments, this and that, where else can you go and just sit and relax and just have a good time and forget everything that’s going on,” Carlson said.

“To have mentors like this and men in the community that are willing to donate their time and energy to young boys like Nick, it means a lot,” Andy Pahl, Nick’s father, said.

The group had a pretty successful day of hunting, but even if it wasn’t, for those few hours out in the field hunting was the only thing on their minds.

“It was nice that I got to meet some new kids and got to go hunting with them. It was pretty cool,” Nathaniel said.