June 26, 2011; Source: Salon | There’s much that Make-A-Wish will do to help children with life-threatening medical conditions find happiness in their final days — perhaps arrange a trip to a theme park or a meeting with a celebrity. One thing, however, the group will not do is organize outings so dying children can hunt and kill animals in the wild. For those kind of wishes, there’s Hunt of A Lifetime. 

According to Salon, for more than a decade, the nonprofit has granted more than 630 “dreams” — such as hunting bear, moose and antelope. The group also arranges fishing outings for sick children under the age of 21. While probably much less known than Make-A-Wish, Hunt of A Lifetime is about to get a lot more notice, however, thanks to a forthcoming documentary “The Harvest.”

Gabriel DeLoach, who directed the film, says, when he first heard about the group, “I was struck by the idea that a child facing death would want to take the life of another living being.” According to Salon, the documentary, “focuses on the lives and families of three young hunters. Tyler, 14, dreams of shooting a black bear in Maine so that he can hang its body alongside the raccoon and muskrat pelts that adorn his bedroom walls. Casey, 20, hopes to bag an elk in New Mexico, a dream complicated by the fact that a surgery to remove a brain tumor has left him legally blind. Fourteen-year-old Arianna, a sweet-looking, wheelchair-bound girl who suffers from spina bifida, travels to Custer, S.D., crossbow and rifles at the ready, to shoot her first turkey.” 

The film also features Tina Pattison, who started Hunt for a Lifetime 11 years ago so other parents could arrange for hunting outings for children, like her son Matthew, who died in 1999 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  After Make A Wish turned down Matthew’s request to shoot a moose, Pattison had to find a group of hunters on her own to grant her dying child his final wish. According to Salon, Pattison is “absolutely certain of the goodness of her cause.”  She says her group helps kids who want a final chance to hunt animals and “bring the meat home to my family because I might not grow up to have my own family . . . Or they’re thinking, I want to hunt a moose because I’ve always wondered what moose meat was like, and I might never get another chance to try it.”

For filmmaker DeLoach, who spent four years on the documentary, the issue isn’t so black and white. “My hope is that people who hunt will think about their actions, and the gravity of them,” he says. “When I was a little kid with a BB gun, I killed birds and stuff. And then one day I just realized what that meant, and I never did it again. It would be nice if parents kind of instilled that in their kids, but you know kids. They’re gonna be ruthless. I just hope they’re not too ruthless.”  Salon calls the film “powerful and disturbing, and its images and characters stay with one well after the film’s chilling epilogue.”—Bruce S. Trachtenberg