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He had a dream

1/8/2009

You might have heard of Coach Harold Jones. He was an inspiration for the movie, "Radio," released in 2003 by Columbia Pictures. It was about Jones' enduring friendship with a developmentally challenged fan named Radio.

Jones, along with his son Brad, started the Outdoor Dream Foundation soon after the movie came out. Coach Jones raises money for the group, and Brad runs it out of their hometown, Anderson, S.C. Everyone is a volunteer.

Big-name sports stars like Larry Csonka and Hank Parker are also on board. Csonka hosts kids at his Florida fish camp and takes them hunting in Alaska. Parker takes kids on Western hunting adventures.

But the real value of this organization is how it connects kids with local hunters and anglers. Since the volunteers are nearby, they can stay close to the kids and their families. Instead of just a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we're talking once a week adventures as well.

To date, the group has helped more than 200 children attain their outdoor dream, over and over again.
But it's been difficult to see 10 children die since the program's start. A memorial page on the group's Web site shows photos of the boys and girls who are no longer with us.

Steve Shaw, one of the organization's mentors, said the Outdoor Dream Foundation is made up of "common people with big hearts."

"You become their mentor," said Shaw, who is better know as "Big Country." "They have my cell number, and they call all the time. We build friendships with kids and families."

Like so many other volunteers, Shaw already has a full plate: He's a full-time truck driver and drives a school bus for the local high school teams.

"In the Bible, Psalm 127, Verse 3, it says, 'Children are a gift from God,'" he said. "If I could see that kid be happy and forget about his illness for a while, it's all worth it."

Contact the Outdoor Dream Foundation at www.outdoordream.org or call (864) 226-8775.