Monday, July 19, 2010

Outdoor Dream trip takes 16-year-old on Alaska fishing expedition

 — The only things Brandon Tollack shot on a recent hunting trip to Alaska were sunsets and fishing holes, with his camera.
He did hook a few fish. The 16-year-old traveled to Alaska June 27-July 5 on a trip sponsored by the Outdoor Dream Foundation.
Brandon was found to have Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2009. His father accompanied him on the trip, along with his sponsor, Mary Beth Parker, and her friend.
He fished for three varieties. First, he and his father caught 200 pounds of halibut at Cook Inlet. Tries at sockeye salmon and king salmon weren’t as successful.
But he prefers halibut, which has a “gourmet” kind of taste.
To Parker, halibut is a little more common.
“It looks like a big flounder,” she said.
Brandon, of Powdersville, chose Alaska for his expedition after hearing about it from his father, James, who was stationed there in the military. Before Alaska, Brandon’s father had taken him to Sumter and New Jersey to fish.
Oregon, Wyoming, Hawaii and the Bahamas are some of the states the Outdoor Foundation has sent children to hunt and participate in other outdoor adventures. Coach Harold Jones and his son, Brad Jones, started the foundation in 2004 to fulfill the hunting wishes of children with terminal or life-threatening illness. At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday the foundation will hold a fundraiser at the Watkins Community Center in Honea Path.A $25 ticket covers dinner, a live auction and a raffle.Former NASCAR racer Hank Parker Jr., no relation to Mary Beth Parker, will host the fundraiser. Parker is the son of Hank Parker, winner of the Bassmasters Classic.
Brad Jones said the foundation hopes to earn $18,000 at the fundraiser.
The foundation helps children from all over the country, but mostly works with hospitals in South Carolina. Jones said his father is no big hunter, but his uncles took him hunting when he was a boy.
A big motivation for starting the foundation was “just to see those children smile,” he said. “Some of them don’t have a whole lot to smile about. It puts a smile on their face.”
Mary Beth Parker, 38, had volunteered for the Outdoor Dream Foundation since it began in 2004.
Then her brother died of kidney cancer in 2006 at 32.
“I was already volunteering for the foundation, but that just made me want to do more,” said Parker, who is Jones’ cousin.
To do more, she decided to become a sponsor. Brandon is the second patient she’s sponsored.
Her reason for mentoring is similar to Jones’.
“I just love the look on their faces when they do something they’ve never done,” said Parker, a biomedical engineer. “They look at life from a different perspective than a child who doesn’t have a life-threatening illness. They appreciate life more.”
Brandon especially appreciated the natural landscapes in front of him.
“Brandon is really interested in photography,” Parker said. “We spent a lot of time just sightseeing. You can’t pick a much better place to go to practice your photography than Alaska.”
The teen is attending a summer camp at Greenville Memorial Hospital for children who are undergoing or have gone through cancer treatment. The experience is teaching him how cancer can affect a child.
“It’s a little bit surprising about how many kids there are younger than 11 here,” he said.
Brandon, whose disease has been in remission since 2009, plans to apply to Clemson University after high school

What: An Evening with Hank Parker Jr., a fundraiser for the Outdoor Dream Foundation
When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Watkins Community Center, Honea Path
Contact: For tickets, call Coach Harold Jones at 226-8775

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