Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Tourism board votes down grant to fund concert for hunting organization

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Hunting supporters and opponents gathered at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center on Wednesday to express opinions on a grant considered by the county tourism board that would give funding for a concert to raise funds for the Hunt Of a Lifetime organization.

The Porter County Convention Recreation and Visitor Commission board ultimately voted against the grant 7-1 because it felt the event would not draw enough visitors from outside of Porter County which is one of the crucial factors a grant must meet in order to gain the board’s approval.

The board opened a public forum after it elected its 2010 board officers (see related story on Back Page). Each speaker was given a two-minute limit. The public debated the ethics of a charitable organization that allows children with life-threatening illnesses to experience hunting and fishing trips with their families.

Mary Ann Crayton of Chesterton opened the debate saying she found the idea of a terminally ill child wanting to kill an animal “ludicrous” and asked why giving weapons to children with the intent to kill would be a tourist draw.

“I would encourage the board not to allow this to happen,” said Crayton.

Others said expressed similar views, such as Judith Cieslak of Valparaiso who said she thought of the organization as a “kind of sick joke” when she first heard about the possibility of the tourism board granting funds to it.

Jean Prebis of Valparaiso said from the research she has done, the Hunt Of a Lifetime does not meet the charity accountability standards set by the Better Business Bureau, which evaluates charitable organizations. She said the organization has not disclosed information to the BBB’s requests or gone under evaluation. Prebis said the organization could be a real good “scam.”

Supporters of the Hunt Of a Lifetime insisted that the organization is not a scam, but a “wish granting” charity that has made a difference in the lives of terminally ill children.

Greg Scott of LaPorte said the vision of the organization is not about killing, but about spending time with family. He said all the organization does is provide a child the chance to have one last experience being with loved ones. Scott said hunting is an important part of his life and his family.

“I’m gonna pass this on to my children,” he said.

Scott also said the grant money requested would not be used to fund hunting trips, but to raise funds for advertising a concert event that will be held at Chesterton High School on April 2 featuring local country musician Nicole Jamrose and comedian Don Tersigni.

One member from the audience, Karin McKenna of Chesterton, handed members of the board and those sitting in the audience printouts from a web site showing kids with high-powered shotguns and knives used to cut the throats of hogs. McKenna said there are “thousands” of things the board can do to help terminally ill children.

McKenna said she found organizations similar to Hunt Of a Lifetime that engaged in canned hunting. Canned hunting is a form of hunting where animals are raised and trapped in an area strictly for the purpose of being killed. She said canned hunting is illegal in Indiana but is still done by some residents under laws that were grandfathered in.

Hunt Of a Lifetime Co-Ambassador for Northern Indiana Garry Burch of Valparaiso said the organization does not participate in canned hunts nor would it consider it a possibility.

He said other “untruths” had been asserted since word about the organization’s fundraiser had circulated. Burch addressed the safety of the hunting trips saying there is a higher chance of being killed while riding in a car or “drowning in your own bathtub” than while being on a hunt.

Burch said the debate is not about religion, hunting or fishing, but about meeting the advertising needs for the event.

The board’s newest appointed member, Chesterton attorney Mitch Peters, said he thought the grant submitted had been poorly drafted. One other weakness the board mentioned was that Hunt Of a Lifetime had no additional partners in the event. Board members felt the visitor turnout for the concert would not generate enough business in the county for the grant to be justified.

Lone No Vote

Peters said concerts in Valparaiso have been substantial tourist draws and it was possible for the concert to bring in a large number of people. Peters was the only member who voted no when PCCRVC board member Michael Scott made the motion to deny the application.

Newly elected PCCRVC board president Jeff Good closed the debate saying the decision facing the board is “quite intimidating.” He explained that the board’s process of considering grants focuses on bringing visitors from outside Porter County to stay in hotels.

The PCCRVC gets funding from the innkeepers tax.

The board told Burch they would be willing to consider a grant from the Hunt Of a Lifetime organization in the future and said to include information focusing more on the marketing process next time and less on entertainment.

Although the grant was not awarded, Burch said the concert will still take place. Tickets for the event are $15 and are on sale at most local sporting good stores, said Burch who expects nearly 1,000 people to turn out for the event.

Burch said the organization is there to fulfill the wish for suffering children who include hunting as an integral part of their lives.

“Every kid has a dream,” he said.

 

 

Posted 2/25/2010

 

 

 

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