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Old May 4th 2012, 12:58 PM   #1
  Apr 2009
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris hit back to back home runs numerous times in the early 60’s. Baseball hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra coined the famous phrase “It's déj* vu all over again". Yogi explained it was his way to describe game changing events by a couple exceptional hitters. I believe Yogi’s famous phrase could easily be applied to my recent trip to Texas and the new chapter we are getting off the ground for USSA.

Back in October of 2000 USSA’s very first outdoor wish was granted for a critically ill family man named Mike from Texas. Accompanying him on the hunt was his best friend Michael Arena a Texas resident as well. I was fortunate enough to personally visit with the two Mikes before the deer hunt was granted.

After hearing about the unique way an outdoor wish touched those in need and seeing first-hand the inner peace this opportunity provided, I knew it was what I wanted to do the rest of my life! Since Michael’s inaugural hunt almost 12 years ago USSA has granted over 7,500 wishes, and is experiencing tremendous growth.

About a year ago I had contemplated the concept of implementing a new chapter to USSA’s mission where our nation’s at risk, economically and socially challenged youth could be positively mentored through the great outdoors. By partnering these children with positive adult mentors we feel we can help teach them to make right choices when risky questionable behavior finds its way into their lives. When a child has a parent incarcerated they have a 50% or greater chance of ending up there as well. “Regardless of the age of the child when a parent is incarcerated, there can be profound effects on that child’s development due primarily to the factors of trauma and parent-child separation”.

USSA decided to attempt Phase II by launching it in southern Texas; where I just returned.

Well, Yogi’s saying came true, as the man who was there on the launch of USSA Phase I was also there on the initial launch of Phase II thousands of wishes later! Mike Arena and his wife Kathy were my hosts as well as my strategic sounding board as I worked out the logistics of making Phase II a reality. Yogi's Deja Vu was game changing and Phase II would be life changing! Yogi's Deja Vu involved exceptional hitters; USSA's Phase II involved exceptional humans. If Phase II is nearly as successful as Phase I; our volunteer base will have their work cut out for them!

In closing, the beginning of Phase II called “Outreach Outdoors” event is scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend and the second is scheduled for Father’s Day weekend. I believe the dates are highly appropriate because most of these special youth are missing one or both parents! With God’s grace and your prayers, we will get these children with incarcerated parents into the great outdoors changing their lives forever!

Here is the video clip I put together to encourage children to take part in our Outreach Outdoor’s program:

God Bless.

Brigid O'Donoghue
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Old May 4th 2012, 02:59 PM   #2
  Apr 2009
  Fombell PA
Awesome stuff bridgid!!!!
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Old May 7th 2012, 07:36 AM   #3
  May 2009
  Northwest Illinois
Nice job Bridgid! I would feel honored and priviledged to pray with and for you. Consider it done!!!
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Old May 13th 2012, 03:38 PM   #4
  Apr 2009
The Outreach Outdoor’s was launched this Mother’s Day weekend; and to say the lease it was a resounding success! I will be attending the Father’s Day weekend event and I feel very hopeful it will be equally successful in introducing our at risk youth to the great outdoors. God bless.

Brigid O'Donoghue
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 11:17 AM   #5
  Apr 2009
The United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA) in conjunction with Bexar County Detention Ministries, Inc. (BCDM) held its first "Outreach Outdoors" group event for 18 children and family members on June 15, 16, and 17th of 2012. The event was held near the town of Nixon, TX. There was fishing, ATV rides, horseback riding, archery shoot, rustic camping, campfire and smores, swimming, and so much more.

Many thanks to Dejah and John Behnke and BCDM, Scott and Jackie Trammell, Tony and Tracie Perez, Mike Arena, Mikey and Shannon, Marida Borromeo and EWA and all the other volunteers who made such an awesome event happen. God bless you all!!

Brigid O'Donoghue
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 11:25 AM   #6
  Apr 2009
More pictures...
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 11:29 AM   #7
  Apr 2009
Many great memories...
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 11:37 AM   #8
  Apr 2009
The fun and excitement never ends in the Great Outdoors!
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Old Jun 23rd 2012, 11:46 AM   #9
  Apr 2009
It took my breath away to have the opportunity to share time with these special children. They are truly God's blessing to us all!

Brigid O'Donoghue
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Old Jul 14th 2012, 08:45 AM   #10
  Apr 2009
O'Donoghue raises bars with Sportsman Alliance

Pittsville - Brigid O'Donoghue says the idea came to her in church.

The Pittsville woman, who spent the last decade connecting thousands of sick children and disabled veterans with the outdoors, decided to expand the vision.

"Why not develop an outdoors program for children with incarcerated parents?" O'Donoghue, 47, remembers thinking during a 2011 service.

O'Donoghue is not one to deal in hypotheticals. When she says "Why not?" the conversation has a way of moving directly to "How many?" and "How soon?"

After she learned how precious a hunting trip was to a business associate with a life-threatening illness, O'Donoghue founded the United Special Sportsman Alliance in 2000.

The nonprofit, volunteer-run organization grants "outdoor wishes." It specializes in sending critically ill and disabled youth and military veterans on fishing and hunting trips.

Since 2000, the organization has run programs in 39 states and granted 7,800 wishes.

In June, USSA organized a Lake Michigan fishing outing with 42 boats; families came from six states.

O'Donoghue has developed a network of specialists, including guides and ranchers, medical aides and taxidermists, who provide their services for free.

"It's an awesome opportunity for us," said Russ Smith, a hunter who has hosted USSA events on his land near Hayward. "It brings us back to earth. Most of us are pretty spoiled with how we are able to live our lives. This fills a void for people like us looking for a way to help."

So O'Donoghue was not exactly starting anew with her initiative to help children with incarcerated parents.

She also had firsthand experience with such kids - the father of her two children had been imprisoned.

O'Donoghue, now in a different relationship and with two grown children, knew there was great potential to help.

As she learned since 2000, outdoor activities can be transformational.

"For a vet in a wheelchair or a kid who has only seen asphalt, the outdoors is like another world," O'Donoghue said.

A Milwaukee native, O'Donoghue was stricken with viral encephalitis as a youngster and suffered from seizures into her 20s.

The seizures caused memory lapses and a speech impediment; she barely graduated from St. Joan Antida High School in Milwaukee.

"It's no fun to feel ashamed, to feel different," said O'Donoghue. "That's a big part of why I want to help others facing tough situations."

Her quest to launch the new program faced a unique challenge: How to connect with the kids?

After many dead ends, her answer came from Bexar County Detention Ministries in San Antonio, Texas.

The ministry worked with just such a group of children.

O'Donoghue presented the game plan - a weekend of camping, fishing, archery, swimming, campfires, star gazing and horseback riding at a ranch in Nixon, Texas.

Bexar County officials and 18 children signed on.

The program - Outdoors Outreach - was born.

The event was held on property owned by Scott Trammell, 42, of Nixon and his family. Trammell had been involved with previous USSA events.

"It was 'go' from the first word," said Trammell, who works on pipeline construction. "Get 'em down here and we'll have a great time."

The ranch is about an hour from San Antonio.

Some kids came with grandparents, others with guardians. The children were ages 4 to 14.

"They all had the same first reaction," O'Donoghue said. "Oh my!"

Most of the kids had never been outside the city. None had been on a ranch.

One child asked if there was a pool. O'Donoghue said no, they'd be swimming in the pond.

"We all went in and got our hair wet and mud between our toes," O'Donoghue said. "The smiles told the story."

The kids were put to work shortly after arrival. Tents needed to be erected, wood needed to be stacked.

Trammell said they just had enough rules to ensure safety. Other than that, they let them be kids.

"One girl told me she'd never been out of her neighborhood," Trammell said. "She wondered how far she could see in the distance."

The event was held on Father's Day weekend, often a lonely time for kids with fathers behind bars.

"We found a different way to celebrate," O'Donoghue said.

The kids were connected with the natural world, learned new skills, overcame some fears and misconceptions.

At the end of the weekend, O'Donoghue said the kids asked two questions: Can they stay longer? When can they do it again?

Now it must be said there is no lack of programs that attempt to introduce people to the outdoors. Many, to be frank, amount to a fun experience for participants but are quickly forgotten and don't change behavior much less lives.

O'Donoghue has a plan. She wants Outreach Outdoors to provide ongoing mentorship to the children, including work toward career goals and job training.

"I want to keep the children from going to prison," O'Donoghue said. "That's my goal."

O'Donoghue plans to go national with it. Her sights are set on reaching 10,000 kids.

Don't bet against the Irishwoman with Milwaukee roots. She knows the power of the outdoors.
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Old Mar 21st 2021, 08:50 PM   #11
  Mar 2021
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