By Vicki Swan ~
PATHFINDER…. According to the dictionary, a pathfinder is one who leads the way. To Safari Club International, a pathfinder is a person who is faced with challenges in their life that causes them to find new ways to live it, to overcome those challenges, and to be engaged in outdoor activities.
More than 20 years ago, SCI decided to recognize two outstanding disabled hunters with an annual Pathfinder Award. Individual SCI members and chapters sent in nominations from all over the country to compete for this prestigious award. Two winners were selected and the award was presented to them at the SCI Convention in Nevada.
The Award was originally named the Special Hunter Award, but to keep from being confused with Special Olympics it was changed to the Pathfinder. When the Award started out, only a plaque was given at the convention. But in 1991 after the plaque was given to a special young man who was paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident, Jan Oelofse of Oelofse Hunting Safaris stood up in the audience and said, “I will give that man a free safari!” Every year since then, Oelofse Safaris has donated one of their outstanding African hunts to the pathfinder winner. After that first hunt, Jan’s comment was, “I can face down a charging elephant but I can’t face up to what that boy did.” Jan passed away recently, but his family has vowed to continue to donate as long as the program is in existence. Also, beginning in 2015, thanks to the generosity of Stef Swanepoel of Numzaan Safaris, SCI is now able to choose two pathfinder recipients every year.
The winners receive a free trip to the National SCI Convention in order that they receive their award on stage at the Friday night banquet. In 2014, the guest speaker was Jeff Foxworthy and he was kind enough to pose backstage for pictures with our pathfinders. Both winners were presented with a trophy and an all-expense paid African Safari as well as other gifts.
To be eligible, a disabled hunter must be nominated by an SCI member in good standing or an SCI chapter. Nominees may include physically-challenged hunters, wounded military personnel or veterans, or terminally ill hunters. The criterion for the Award is based on not only the individual’s hunting experience, but also on his or her involvement in community service. Heavy emphasis is placed on the nominee’s commitment to conservation, hunting or shooting sports, and his or her participation in promoting these activities.
SCI is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and promoting wildlife conservation world-wide. The Foundation (SCIF) funds and directs programs across the globe dedicated to wildlife conservation, humanitarian services and outdoor education.
Applications to nominate someone for the Pathfinder Award can be found on the Safari Club Foundation website and are accepted year-around. Deadline for submitting applications is typically October 1st of that year. For more information about the Pathfinder Award, a SCIF chapter near you or how to join SCI, go to www.SafariClub.org, www.safariclubfoundation.org, or call 520-620-1220.