By Jason Seaton
How many once-in-a-lifetime trips can a person experience, especially in a four-month timeframe? This is something that I ask myself a lot lately. Prior to January 2022, I didn’t have any knowledge of Safari Club International or Safari Club International Foundation.
Sure, I had seen their commercials while watching hunting shows, but no one in my neck of the woods had ever mentioned SCI. To me, SCI meant “spinal cord injury,” an abbreviation I unfortunately found myself associated with after becoming a quadriplegic 26 years ago while inner tubing in the snow.
Last fall, while watching hunting shows, an SCI commercial came on and I decided to learn more about the organization and its programs. Somehow, I came across their Pathfinder Award page and decided to share my story.
Having just turned 21 two weeks before my accident in 1996, I still had a lot of drive and fight in me although I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I put my life in God’s hands and took it one day at a time. Seven years after my injury, I found myself at the University of Tennessee where I was able to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Another four years later, I was elected president of my county’s National Wild Turkey Federation chapter.
I was on my way to Illinois to deer hunt when SCIF Pathfinder Committee Co-chair Bill Swan contacted me to let me know I was selected as Safari Club International Foundation’s 2021 Pathfinder of the Year. Little did I know that my life would forever be changed after receiving that news.
Prior to this experience, I had not been on an airplane since my accident. I had thought about it, but I was never brave enough to try it. A part of being the SCIF Pathfinder of the Year was attending the SCI Convention in Las Vegas to receive the award in person at the annual Beretta and SCI Foundation Conservation Leadership Award and Gala. I had no choice but to fly. Through the hospitality of the SCI Foundation, my wife, Angela, our son, Nhyle, and I got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip with all expenses paid.
The SCI Convention was one of the most amazing hunting shows I have ever been to. Row upon row of outfitters, artists and renowned sporting goods manufacturers from around the world, all in one place. We met some amazing people and got to see what happens when the love and passion for the conservation of animals worldwide meets together. The topping on the cake was taking a day trip to visit the Grand Canyon!
My second once-in-a-lifetime trip took place over Memorial Day weekend at the Lazy CK Ranch in Texas as part of the Pathfinder Award hunt. Again, the generosity of donors to the SCI Foundation allowed me to harvest a beautiful axis buck. While there, the Lazy CK Ranch manager Allen Robinson allowed my son to hunt as well. There is nothing better than being able to hunt with family, and having my son share in this experience was truly amazing.
He harvested a very nice Texas Dall sheep. None of this would have been possible if not for the SCI Foundation. I want to express, from bottom of my heart, a big THANK YOU to everyone involved in this great organization and for welcoming me and my family into your lives. You all have truly blessed us!
Jason Seaton is the SCI Foundation 2021 Pathfinder Award winner for his strong example in overcoming a disabling obstacle while remaining engaged in outdoor activities, being a help to his community and inspiring others.
The Pathfinder award and grant program were created by SCIF in 2014 to provide hunting and outdoor opportunities to people with life challenges and to help them find new ways to enjoy the outdoors. The prestigious award is given out annually during SCI’s Annual Hunters’ Convention. Funds for the Pathfinder program are generated through the generous contributions of outfitters and operators who donate items for a special auction. The 2022 Pathfinder auction was for a Stone sheep hunt with Prophet Muskwa Outfitters, thanks to the Olmsteads. Each year, a Pathfinder Award winner is selected from applications submitted by SCI Chapters and individuals. The award winner is honored for their life achievements demonstrating their ability to overcome disabling obstacles while remaining engaged in outdoor activities, helping their community and inspiring others.
The program also provides Pathfinder grants to SCI chapters to help them support outdoor opportunities for disabled people locally. Since 2014, the program has disbursed 168 grants to 97 SCI Chapters totaling $300,000. Through these efforts, over 5,000 adults and 700 youth hunters have had potentially life-changing outdoor experiences. The Pathfinder applications for Convention Year 2023 are now open with a deadline to apply by September 30, 2022. To submit a Pathfinder application or for information about the Pathfinder Chapter Grants, email Katie Robinson at [email protected] or call (520) 798-4890.