Jewish World Review
August 14, 2000 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5760
"Make-A-Wish" shoots down dreams
FOUR YEARS AGO, I wrote a check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to honor an
extraordinary kid diagnosed with brain cancer. Now, the charity has
dishonored him by caving in to political correctness and abandoning other
terminally ill children who share this boy's passions.
Erik Ness was 17 years old at the time, and he had a simple dream: to hunt
a brown bear in Alaska with his dad. The Make-A-Wish Foundation's Minnesota
chapter made arrangements for Erik with voluntary assistance from Safari
Club International, a hunters' association. Over 500 Safari Club members
attended a fund-raising dinner in Erik's honor; they raised $4,000 for
gear, clothing and travel.
Both organizations came under attack by anti-hunting extremists, as did
Erik and his family. "We're going to hit the streets with signs and
pamphlets and bloody their noses, and they won't recover," threatened
Leslie Davis, president of the Minneapolis-based Earth Protector. Despite
the harassment, Erik and his supporters held fast.
As long as a doctor approved the wish and it was within the law, the
foundation had pledged "never to deny a wish to an eligible child."
Make-A-Wish declared that it would not bend to what it rightly dubbed
animal rights "terrorists."
Thanks to that courageous stand, Erik and his dad made the trip to Kodiak
Island. They didn't get their bear on a spring 1996 outing, but the
Minnesota Safari Club and Make-A-Wish coordinated a second autumn hunt that
was successful. In a letter to the magazine Outdoor Life last year, Erik's
mother, Diane, described the opportunities that blossomed as a result of
his Make-A-Wish-sponsored adventure:
"The International Safari Club heard of Erik and decided to honor him at a
banquet. They arranged for him to travel to Las Vegas, where he met former
President George Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and General Norman
Schwarzkopf, among others. He met and made lots of friends at the
convention. The International Safari Club also presented him with a fall
elk hunt in Colorado.
While at the convention, Erik met David Van der Mullen from Sporting Out of
Africa, who offered him a summer job in Africa working as a helper and
guide. Erik was able to go on five hunts himself. It was a great learning
experience and a lot of fun…
That fall Erik also got involved with the United Foundation for Disabled
Archers, with whom he has volunteered as a guide for the past two years,
taking disabled sportsmen hunting in northern Minnesota for whitetails. He
has also duck hunted in Canada, fished at Great Slave Lake in the Northwest
Territory, pheasant hunted in North Dakota and hunted deer in northern
Erik plans on graduating from Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minn., in
May. He will have a degree in Wilderness Management. He goes to school
during the week, has chemo on Saturdays and enjoys hunting and fishing
whenever he can (almost every day). Erik lives every day to the fullest…"
Two months after the letter was published, Erik died of brain cancer at age
Now that he is gone, Make-A-Wish has decided "it is not in the best
interests of the children we serve for us to continue considering wishes
that involve firearms, hunting bows, or other hunting or sport-shooting
The foundation's CEO, Paula Van Ness, said in a recent open letter to
donors that the new policy is not a "value judgment," but a "safety"
measure. Yet Van Ness acknowledges that "accident statistics show fewer
youngsters are hurt in hunting and sport shooting each year than in
activities as common as high school sports."
The foundation's timid policy change is not just a "value judgment," but
also a slap in the face to Erik's memory, to hunters, and to other sick
children and their families who participate in doctor-approved,
lawfully-bound sporting activities. The charity may have preserved its
political viability with corporate and left-wing donors. But by shooting
down dreams, Make-A-Wish has shot itself in the
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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