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Sheriff's department looks to give one local youth a big game adventure

April 22, 2019 Digital Media Exclusive

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Tom Widenhofer (kneeling, center, with the blanket) was the first teen facing a life-threatening illness to go on a big game hunt in Arizona with the nonprofit Outdoor Experience 4 All in 2008. Widenhofer died in 2012 after a six-year battle with brain cancer.

For some hunters, the experience exceeds the thrill of the harvest.

A group called Outdoor Experience 4 All is partnering with the Butler County Sheriff's Department to bring one county child on the adventure of a lifetime on a big-game hunt in Arizona.

Deputy Walter Widenhofer said a local group of volunteers is actively seeking a child with a life-threatening illness — preferably the child of a first responder, wounded warrior or a fallen hero. He said the child doesn't have to be an experienced hunter, but having an interest in the outdoors and hunting would be a bonus.

Widenhofer said the sheriff's department plans to help raise funds for travel costs to Arizona while the hunting organization covers the cost of everything else once the hunting party arrives there.

He pointed out how life-threatening illnesses impact the lives of children and their families — shifting daily routines far away from normal. He said there is so much concern about preserving the child's life or health that normal life simply ceases to exist.

“When you're dealing with life-threatening illnesses on a regular basis, just getting out and acting normal and being able to experience an adventure that's not involving this treatment or that treatment or a hospital room, it changes your perspective,” said Widenhofer, who has a special connection with the group.

Widenhofer's late son, Tom, was part of group's first hunting trip in 2008. Tom Widenhofer passed away in July 2012 at the age of 19 following a six-year battle against brain cancer. Even when Tom Widenhofer was really sick, someone from Outdoor Experience 4 All came to visit him.

Widenhofer said he has been with the organization since its inception and volunteers with the hunts every other year.

“Ten years ago, Tom started it all, and last year, we took 300 kids on a hunt of a lifetime to experience an adventure in the wilderness of Arizona,” Widenhofer said.

Anyone interested in the program should call Widenhofer at the Sheriff's office at 724-284-5245.

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