Little Lakes, Big Heart
Groups offers hunts to vets, disabled, or just getaways
Packerland Titletown USA editor
A group that provides hunting, fishing and photography opportunities, as well as just good-old-fashioned getaways, is looking for Packers memorabilia donations for their annual banquet.
The Little Lakes Memories group recently held their annual banquet, and although the Packers prize package was popular, it could use a little more star power.
“The Packers always give us a football – one of the generic ones – and we buy a case for it,” said Stanley Nowak, board member for Little Lakes Memories. “Augie’s Collectibles of Tomahawk always donates a lot of stuff to us. One of the distributors donated a Packers beer mirror, so we were able to put together a nice Packers package. Jerry Burnett put a lot of work into getting that together.
“I think if we had more memorabilia that stood out, we would draw a lot more interest, like if we had an autographed jersey. I’m hoping we can have more in the future. I was talking with a Packer that does a lot of stuff with kids and we invited him to the lodge with the kids.”
The group offers hunts to veterans or disabled youth, in central and north central Wisconsin, from as far away as Ashland to the north, and Mountain to the east. Nine of them were offered for free in 2016.
“I had one young guy that was so happy he started crying,” Nowak said. “He told me as long as he lives he’ll never forget that hunt.
“We also do the mounts for them so it doesn’t cost a thing. If they don’t get a deer, they can come back as many times as it takes.
“We don’t push the hunts as much as we do the family experience. The whole family can come out here.”
Back to school
College scholarships are reserved for youth with a veteran or member of the military in the family.
“We also ask their involvement in the community and for them to write an essay,” Nowak noted.
The organization gives out scholarship awards in two different communities in Wisconsin – up in Bayfield and down in Merrill, with the northern scholarships handled by the group.
The group offered $4,000 in scholarships in 2017 and hopes to be up to $5,000 by next year. They will decide soon if they’re giving 10 awards of $500 or five of $1,000.
“Some of our money goes to flyers and things like that, but otherwise all the money goes right back to the program,” Nowak said.
“The ones up in Bayfield, when they wrote up their essays, we didn’t have their names on it, we had them numbered so there wasn’t any favoritism,” Nowak said.
The southern scholarships were awarded to the Ryan Jopek Foundation, which honored the Army sergeant from Merrill killed in action on Aug. 1, 2006, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Whatever was raised in the raffle, we matched it,” Nowak noted.
The raffle turned in $1,000, so another $2,000 in scholarships were awarded from this avenue.
Another big benefit the lodge offers is respite stays – to the tune of 242 nights in 2016.
“People that care for disabled people 24 hours a day just need a little time to catch their breath,” Nowak said. “All the stuff we do doesn’t cost them anything – hunts, respite stays.”
If you’re going to offer hunts to the disabled, special equipment is needed.
“In 2016, we purchased an Action Trackchair ($12,500) and a wheelchair gun mount,” Nowak said. “If they don’t have use of their hands, we put a brace under the hunter’s chin, they can move the firearm and aim by viewing thru a monitor that is aligned with the crosshairs on the gun.
“When they want to shoot, we take the safety off, and to pull the trigger, they suck on a tube. We can accommodate just about any challenge the hunters may have at Little Lakes Memories. If they don’t want to hunt, they can photograph, too.”
Hunting, with a gun or camera, isn’t the only venue open to their participants.
“We just found a person (Skip Randt) who can take them muskie fishing, so now we’re adding that,” Nowak said.
Guided muskie fishing isn’t the only way the group promotes fishing.
“We gave out over 50 fishing poles and 1,000 fishing lures at our booths in Wausau and Tomahawk (at sports shows),” said Nowak.
The Little Lakes Lodge is located in Irma, Wis., near Highway J, on the heavily-wooded, 104-acre “preserve,” complete with food plots.
“It’s real wild,” Nowak said. “We have a three-level lodge. It can sleep 10-12 people comfortably. We’ve had more than 20 people stay here at one time. The lower two levels are wheelchair accessible. The second level has a dining area, with wifi and TV in a living room. The third level has a stairway with five king-sized beds up there.
“Some deer we don’t even see unless we set up the (game) cameras. It’s tied right into the lodge. You can watch wildlife from the lodge with binoculars. It’s really nice.”
The Little Lakes Memories group is looking for Packers donations, or monetary donations for their fundraiser banquet each year, held March 25 in 2017.
Call Stan Nowak at 715-297-5070 to donate memorabilia or money to the cause.
Compliments from past guests:
“I wish I had the right words in this moment to thank you properly. For opening your home, your property, and your life to us as complete strangers. That says something pretty grand about your hearts. Thank you!! Raymond had a once in a lifetime experience complete with bragging rights. Not only that but the deer will help feed our family thru the winter. I wish Raymond were verbal so he could share his joy with all of us. What a bright and beautiful gift this weekend has been for a little boy who has many hardships in the world. God bless you!! Sarah and Dave Forster and most of all Raymond Beecher 12 3/8in g2 tines, 9 points, 249 lbs., 15 1/2-inch spread. 12 3/8-inch g2 tines, with the aid of a wheelchair gun mount.”
“Severely disabled U.S. Army Veteran, Tom Goodrich, recently participated in a successful deer hunt sponsored by Little Lakes Memories of Irma, WI. Tom hunted from a blind donated and constructed by Wausau Homes and is the first hunter to harvest a buck from the new blind. Tom was guided by Erik and Luke Wegner, owners of Little Lakes Ranch, who helped Tom get the rare pie-bald buck with nine points and a weight of 240 pounds. Tom’s wife, Colleen says he is like a different person since finding out he would be deer hunting this fall. When Tom was asked how he felt about the experience, he stated, “This in unbelievable – now I want to help someone else have the same feeling.”