Every year for 20 years, Rick Rollo and his brothers have held a hunting event to “pay it forward” to the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical staff who helped to take care of their father, Big Al, as he battled cancer for 10 years. This charity event grew from a small event, with 8 hunters donating about $800-$1000, 20 years ago, to an amazing event with 56 hunters raising $21,100 in 2017!
Paying it forward required the involvement of many people along the way and Rick Rollo shared the story with me this morning. My heart was touched hearing about the people who cared and the activities that have been made possible by donations, during a once a year hunting event at MacFarlane Pheasants’ Milton Farm.
Rick and his family held the first event 20 years ago with the help of old friend and hunting buddy, Jim Clark. Jim owned Blonhaven Pheasant Farm in Milton, WI, in 1997, the first year of the event, and he offered the farm for the charity hunt. Let’s fast-forward a few years. Bill MacFarlane began leasing the same Milton farm in 2012. Rick met with Bill and asked if they could continue to run the “Big Al” event at the MacFarlane Pheasants’ Milton Farm. Rick remembers Bill telling him, “I’m all in. Tell me what you need.”
After the “Cancer Shoot” began to expand by leaps and bounds and Rick’s dad passed away in 2007, Rick met with the Safari Club, Wisconsin Chapter board members to discuss setting up a charity within the club. They were happy to be a part of a charity honoring Big Al Rollo!
Rick wanted to expand his dad’s legacy to benefit folks who would never get to experience all the benefits of land and wildlife, without a little help. The “Big Al” charity was expanded to provide hunting and fishing trips to physically challenged or terminally ill children and disabled vets. Rick remembered going along on a fishing trip with a group of physically challenged children and watching the joy on their faces as fish were caught and pulled into the boat. He said he went back to his car that day and cried. In addition to that particular activity, fishing trips for kids with cancer, buying an all-terrain wheel chair for a young man, providing pheasant hunts for disabled veterans, and trap shooting for chemo patients are just a few more activities funded by the “Big Al” hunt.
Brian Klein, the Milton Farm Manager, talked to me about what the event has meant to him and his crew. He said that the hunt takes place at a very busy time of year and that he and his crew spend about two weeks getting ready for the “Big Al” charity event, but he also said he wouldn’t give it up for the world! The day is such a positive experience. They hold a European style hunt, hold raffles, have a dinner and share camaraderie with other hunters. All in all, since 2007, $135,000 has been raised for “Big Al” charities. Who wouldn’t be proud to be a part of this event?
Rick knew we were going to talk about this event and he asked me to please thank Bill MacFarlane, Brian Klein, and the rest of the MacFarlane crew for their many years of dedication to the “Big Al Charity Hunt.”
Thank you, Rick, for sharing your story. I can imagine your dad smiling with pride at your accomplishments.