Editor’s note: A couple from Wisconsin, Mike and Kim Melgaard, recently set up an online fundraiser on GoFundMe.com to raise money to send their son Clay, who has special needs, on a once-in-a-lifetime elk hunt. Anyone interested in helping Clay Melgaard achieve his dream can visit his fund-raising page at: https://www.gofundme.com/clays-dream-elk-hunt.
Clay Melgaard is 14 years old. He was born with cognitive delay (mental retardation), physical disabilities and chronic health issues. But those issues do not define him.
Clay is a friendly and happy teenager who truly loves life. He is sincere and sensitive toward others, and he truly finds happiness in the success of others. This means he loves hearing about successful hunting and fishing stories.
Like many parents living in rural areas, Mike Melgaard introduced his son to hunting at a young age, letting Clay observe the wildlife and watch some hunts. Eventually, Clay started participating in the hunt with assistance from his father and brother, Ben. Over the last few years, Clay has managed to harvest a couple bucks for himself.
One day, a few years ago, Mike told Clay some stories about elk hunting. Clay was immediately intrigued. Today, Clay still asks Mike to tell him an elk hunting story – this happens at least once a day! Eventually, Clay’s dream and desire for bull elk hunt became his biggest wish in life.
Clay the Obsessed Hunter
Mike regularly took Clay along hunting at their property. Clay really looked forward to going along each time. He would willingly get up early and role play to prepare as if he was going hunting, too. Although Clay has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the way he acts is different when he is hunting; he is much calmer and stays still. Nobody can believe anyone could hunt with Clay (due to his disabilities) and have success, but there is just a calmness and focus Clay exhibits while hunting that makes him a great hunting partner.
Several years ago, Mike and a friend went elk hunting. Even though Mike wasn’t successful shooting an elk, Clay was immediately intrigued by the stories his dad told him. Mike got him an elk hunting video for Christmas that year, which added to his interest and excitement in elk hunting. In 2014, Clay got a bull elk stuffed animal (below) as a birthday present during a family camping trip to the Rocky Mountains National Park. This fueled Clay’s overwhelming interest with elk and elk hunting. He is obsessed with the idea of hunting elk.
Clay exhibits an unwavering passion to want to elk hunt. This hunt is something Clay will unlikely ever be able to do on his own. His family knows that the only way Clay’s dream will be filled is by helping him with all aspects of the hunt, including arranging and paying for the hunt.
Mike and Kim truly enjoy telling him daily elk hunting stories because he gets so much satisfaction out of each and every one. Mike is more excited about taking him on this elk hunt than he has ever been for any hunting for himself. The Melgaard family and their friends feel a true sense of fulfillment trying to help Clay achieve his dream.
Playing It Safely First
Over a period of 4 weeks in April 2017, Clay completed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Hunter Safety course. He was very attentive during the course. His family also spent numerous hours outside the classroom helping him review classroom material and practice hands-on firearm safety, treestand safety and more. Clay successfully passed his written exam and did a very good job on his practical test, too. He impressed everyone in class with his progress, determination and ability.
Clay truly enjoyed the Hunter Safety course because he is very interested in hunting and the outdoors. Mike attended the course with Clay to help him keep focused on the training and the importance of the training. The course gave Clay specific, focused guidance on hunting safety and ethics. It also gave Clay’s whole family a goal to achieve along with Clay – the whole family dedicated the time and effort necessary to help Clay learn and pass the course.
Clay’s family has consistently practiced target shooting over the past few years with Clay. They have helped him with ongoing safe firearm handling procedures through practical exercises and target practice with small-caliber long guns. They also practice regularly with Clay for proper trigger control and proper shot placement. Clay has matured significantly with these skills and knowledge. They will continue these activities all summer prior to the elk hunt.
Clay cannot safely or ethically shoot game without assistance. Although he can safely handle a firearm, he does needs help aiming and positioning the rifle due to his physical and cognitive disabilities. Yet, Clay pulls the trigger completely on his own. His father and brother practice with him repeatedly to help him with trigger control and understanding the importance of shot placement and safety.
Fundraising for the Hunt
The Melgaards are now working to help make Clay’s elk dream come true. They have tentatively arranged for Clay to go on a bull elk hunt this fall at a ranch in Idaho. The ranch owners have assisted several disabled hunters in the past, and they’re willing to host Clay at a reduced price.
The Way Outfitters, a non-profit charity that provides hunting, fishing, and outdoor activity opportunities for disabled or terminally ill children and veterans, has also graciously offered to help with a portion of the hunt.
To help defray additional costs for this expensive hunt, the Melgaards are seeking to raise $4,500 by June 30, 2017. Anyone interested in helping Clay Melgaard achieve his dream can visit his fundraising page at: https://www.gofundme.com/clays-dream-elk-hunt.
The Melgaard family truly appreciates any donation amount anyone can give to help make Clay’s dream hunt a reality.