Joe Read lived one of his biggest dreams before he died March 1 of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
He was able to hunt for the first — and the last — time.
It came as a gift from Hunt Of A Lifetime Foundation — a nonprofit organization with a goal to grant hunting and fishing trips to injured veterans and youth battling life-threatening illnesses.
And on Friday, Bald Eagle Area School District students, faculty and staff teamed up at the high school gymnasium for a final assembly that ended a weeklong fundraiser for the organization.
It was held in memory of Read, a 2013 BEA graduate.
Through a T-shirt and bracelet sale, bake sale, coin drive and donations, the goal was to raise $4,000.
As of Friday afternoon, $7,314 was raised, of which $6,900 came from middle and high school efforts including $1,347 from the coin drive, high school Principal Jack Tobias said.
I’m just so damn proud of these kids and this school. This school never ceases to amaze me. These kids never cease to amaze me, and I’m so proud to be the principal here. They go beyond what’s asked of them. We have the best kids around, and I say it all the time, but I’d put them up against anyone
Jack Tobias, BEAHS principal
“I’m just so damn proud of these kids and this school,” Tobias said. “This school never ceases to amaze me. These kids never cease to amaze me, and I’m so proud to be the principal here. They go beyond what’s asked of them. We have the best kids around, and I say it all the time, but I’d put them up against anyone.”
“We just wanted to be part of it,” he said. “It shows our students they are part of something bigger than themselves.”
The assembly Friday afternoon included a designated session for students to pie teachers and administrator in the face with whipped cream, and a ceremony in memory of Read that showcased a video of him.
Students were chosen to pie teachers in the face based on how much they donated during the coin drive, district spokeswoman Rose Hoover said.
The assembly also included speeches from Tobias and Wired Outdoors host Jason Say who teared up during their addresses.
“So many people say thank you to me like I’m the one who makes a difference, but it’s the other way around,” Say said.
He took a moment to catch his breath and then carried on.
Say told the CDT his time hunting with Read was one of his most memorable.
It was so unique for so many reasons. It was his first time hunting, but it was also one of the most difficult trips we went on. At one point he was so sick he was almost rushed to the hospital, but he was adamant about going hunting instead. He was also going around in a 600-pound wheelchair, and had limited mobility.
Jason Say, host of Wired Outdoors
“It was so unique for so many reasons,” Say said. “It was his first time hunting, but it was also one of the most difficult trips we went on. At one point he was so sick he was almost rushed to the hospital, but he was adamant about going hunting instead. He was also going around in a 600-pound wheelchair and had limited mobility.”
Read’s hunting trip was for moose in northern Maine.
With no movement in his legs or arms and limited movement in his hands, Read was assisted by his brother Dusty Read who helped him aim the gun, while Read sucked on a rubber tube to activate the trigger.
On his third day of hunting, he was able to get the moose.
“It came just as we were about to pack up,” Say said. “I remember thinking, ‘this was it. Time to call it a day,’ and then the moment came. I’m emotional when I think of it, but it was kind of perfect. It’s just that the saddest part is that he is the only kid in the program to have passed away.”
It was at Read’s funeral in March where Tobias met Say who helped him bring a fundraising event to the school.
“It all happened so quick, but it’s been worth it,” Tobias said.
Camouflage T-shirts were distributed last week that had “Bald Eagle Area” pasted on the front. Through the rest of the week, other fundraising activities were held.
“He was such a special kid, and I think he made a really positive impact on a lot of people,” Tobias said.
Say said that through Camo Cares, they serve about 70 injured vets and sick children annually. The organization was founded six years ago, and also raised more than $500,000.