On May 29, 2005, we welcomed our son, Braden James, into the world. We thought we had welcomed a perfectly healthy baby boy into our family but about 24 hours after his birth all that changed. At one day old, Braden was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is a congenital heart defect where the left side of the heart does not form properly. Our tiny baby boy would require surgery to survive, and not just one surgery but a series of three open heart surgeries.
At two weeks old, Braden underwent his first open heart surgery, the Norwood, at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans. His recovery took 6 weeks and we were finally able to bring our son home on August 1, 2005. Life resumed some normalcy until December 2005. Braden’s second surgery wasn’t scheduled until January, but his little body decided it could not wait any longer and the second surgery was needed now. We were admitted to Children’s Hospital the second week of December and Braden underwent his second open heart surgery, the Glenn, at six months old. Braden bounced back this time in only a couple of weeks, and we were able to be home for Christmas, with just a few days to spare. As a toddler, Braden underwent some physical and speech therapy, but otherwise he was a happy, rambunctious toddler who you probably wouldn’t have guessed only had half a heart. In November 2007, we traveled to Boston Children’s Hospital and Braden underwent his third open heart surgery, the Fontan, at 2 1/2 years old. Once again we were blessed with a complication free recovery and were able to travel back home just two weeks after surgery.
Since his last surgery in 2007, Braden has done amazingly well. He actively participates in sports and is making the honor roll in junior high. He is looking forward to trying out for the junior high basketball team this upcoming season.
In 2017, we were introduced to Hunt with Heart and Braden was invited to the first Camp La Pesca. Camp La Pesca was an amazing weekend of fishing that Braden will never forget. Braden has also had the opportunity to travel to Gary Yamamoto’s ranch in Palestine, TX for a weekend of fishing. Once again this was an experience that deepened Braden’s love of fishing and being outdoors, things that he will definitely take into adulthood. We are so thankful for the opportunities Hunt for Heart has given our son thus far, and Braden is excited at the possibility of future outings with Hunt with Heart.
Over the weekend Hunt with Heart hosted their 11th Camp Beaver Creek! We brought in six new young people and their families to our Hunt with Heart family! Three of those young people were girls, which we have now doubled our girls in Hunt with Heart! Everyone had a successful hunt and they were each able to harvest a Corsican Ram.
Our camp is unlike any other camp someone their age might attend. Our young people who attend Camp Beaver Creek might seem like any other kid from their appearance, but these kids have been through things people can’t even imagine. This sometimes makes them feel different than their peers and it’s something they can’t talk about with them because they don’t understand. But at Beaver Creek they are surrounded by other young people who have gone through similar things, who know what it’s like to be treated at the hospital, or to have scars on them. It’s a safe place for them to bond and be themselves.
Not only did they each get to harvest a ram, but they went hog hunting, had target and archery practice, hung out by the fire, and ate way too much food throughout the weekend!
Just like any other camp, everyone had a blast, traditions were kept and new memories were created.
At the end of September we kicked off the hunting season at the beautiful Double D Ranch in Bastrop, Texas. We partnered with the Houston Safari Club
and were able to send four of our Hunt with Heart young people on this hunt. We eagerly started the day off before the sun rose. Each one of our hunters got paired with a guide at the ranch, they did a quick target practice and then they were off to harvest their trophy animal. It was a very successful hunt for each one of them- taking home three Chocolate Fallow Deer and one Hawaiian Black Sheep. After the morning hunt we spent the rest of the afternoon fishing on the pier and having lunch in their trophy room. Everyone had a blast! We are so grateful to have had this opportunity. Thank you Double D Ranch and Houston Safari Club, we can’t wait until next year!
This past weekend a few of our Hunt with Heart young people and their families got the opportunity to dust off their shotguns and participate in a dove hunt put on by Texas Dove Hunters Association in Sabinal, Texas. They started off the afternoon by going through TDHA’s Dove 101 Class and a safety briefing. Before going out in the field they had the opportunity to have target practice, but it wasn’t your ordinary target practice. First, they were given a slingshot and paintballs which is something they had never done before. Then they switched over to clay targets to give them a better idea of what the actual hunt was going to be like.
During the dove hunt each young person was able to test out their skills, even though not everyone had perfect aim each time they still had a blast and enjoyed being all together. After the hunt we all gathered together for hamburgers and a time to relax and enjoy each others company.
What’s great about a hunt like this, is we are able to invite multiple young people and their families out which gives them the opportunity to meet each other and get to know other members of our organization if they hadn’t already met.
This summer we launched a new program to Hunt with Heart’s camps! Camp La Pesca is our new fishing camp, it’s the same idea of Camp Beaver Creek, but this will allow us to grow our fishing opportunities to younger people for Hunt with Heart.
The four campers arrived Friday afternoon, we quickly had lunch and a brief orientation/safety meeting and then they were on their way to the boats. We were very blessed and had two different boats on hand so our young people were able to experience offshore fishing and bay fishing. On Friday, two of them went offshore and the other two stayed in the bay. Both fishing experiences were a success. We spent the rest of the evening fishing off the back dock and getting to know everyone.
On Saturday, the boys and their dad’s flip-flopped and fished the opposite of what they had done the day before. Again, we were very blessed and had another successful fishing trip. Our Captain, Matt, knew all the best spots and made sure there was never a dull moment on the water. The rest of the day was spent learning how to cast, tie knots, and a casting contest. We finished the evening off with a fish fry using the fish the campers had caught!
The next morning was unfortunately our last day. We had a big breakfast together and then passed our awards and did a recap of the weekend before separating ways.
Camp La Pesca was definitely a blast and we can’t wait for our next one!
Over the weekend Hunt with Heart invited all of our families and new families who have a child with a congenital heart defect to join us for a day on the water to fish. We have a group of volunteers come out from Stewards of the Wild- Houston Chapter to assist with baiting the poles and help cast them out there to the perfect spot. As the families arrived each one went out with a volunteer to start fishing. Everyone enjoyed learning fishing techniques and had fun even if they didn’t reel in the biggest fish in the water. After fishing, we all joined together for a great BBQ lunch from Rudy’s and were able to tell stories from the day. The first Fish Fest was a success!
Thanks to 44 Farms we were able to cookout and enjoy an afternoon at Beaver Creek Ranch with our Hunt with Heart Family! We enjoyed clay shooting and target practice at the range, hayrides around the ranch and an awesome hunting dog expedition.
On May 20th, Hunt with Heart Families started their weekend off with a Nerf Gun battle that gave everyone a chance to hangout in a friendly environment all while having shooting practice. It was a great day of fun and fellowship!
On Saturday, April 20, 2017, ten of the young people from Hunt with Heart took to the gold course at the American Shooting Centers for a fun morning of bustin’ clays. Jordan was the overall individual winner with the team of Jordan, Nicholas, and Remington taking first overall. Take a look at the gallery below for some great pictures of the event!
Here is a recap from our awesome time at Hunt with Heart’s Camp Beaver Creek – Spring 2017. Enjoy!