Almost two years ago, Eddy Corona decided he wanted to get out of the slowing car business and start giving back to his community.
On July 15, he stood in a banquet hall filled with people hoping to help him and his non-profit organization that gets terminally ill or disabled children out into nature.
Corona, 42, of Ahwatukee Foothills, founded Outdoor Experience 4 All with Chris Denham, 46, of Chandler, in September 2008, Corona said. The Phoenix organization takes children with illnesses, prosthetics, disabilities and those who have lost parents in the military on outdoor adventures.
Most of the activities revolve around hunting, Corona said, but kids can also go fishing, horseback riding, etc.
"It gives them a chance to see something different," he said. "If we can overcome their physical challenges, it gives them a chance to spread their wings and expand themselves a little more."
Corona decided on the idea for the organization because he has been working with children all his life, he said. He volunteers at schools and coached baseball and softball teams.
"[Children] are 25 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future," he said.
Corona thought getting them outdoors was a great way to get these kids away from their "security blankets," he said.
"It gives them a different out. I know it helped me," Corona said, adding that though his father died when he was 4, his big family always guided him in the right direction.
"When my grandparents introduced me to the outdoors, it opened up a whole new thing for me," he said.
Sadie Anderson, 11, has used this "out" numerous times. She was diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis in February 2008 and needs a liver transplant, according to the organization's raffle information.
Sadie has hunted deer, buffalo and antelope with the Outdoor Experience 4 All, said her father, Dave Anderson.
"It gives her a chance to get away from everything," he said. "On a hike she doesn't even think about [her illness]. One-hundred percent she can be a kid again."
Anderson said he also volunteers with the organization that has helped his daughter.
"It's a touching experience," he said. "These kids go through more than anyone should have to go through, and it doesn't even dent their armor."
The organization conducted a raffle during its fundraising banquet on July 15 to help Sadie and her family. People could buy tickets to win one of three hunts, including one in Nebraska, according to the raffle information.
Anderson said the money raised for the raffle wouldn't be enough to cover Sadie's transplant, but it would definitely help.
At the banquet attendees paid $60 for a buffet and open bar. People walked around the tables lining the walls to participate in the silent auction, which contained 87 items ranging from paintings to guns. Other items were available through a raffle, as well.
Corona said most of the funding for the organization comes from the banquet, but he also seeks donations and applies for grants.
"I'm not opposed to doing anything to raise money," he said. "The stuff we can't get comes from my or Chris' pocket or volunteers."
One of those volunteers, Chris Romero, said he helps to get people to donate the auction items. He has also gone on one trip that specifically helped the siblings of children who are terminally ill, since they can sometimes feel neglected, he said.
Romero said he volunteers with Outdoor Experience 4 All because he can see the effort going to the kids, unlike similar organizations.
"Here, you know who it goes to, and you're meeting the kids who it goes to," he said.
In 2009, more than 350 children participated in an outdoor experience, Corona said. So far in 2010, 156 have benefited from the organization.
"These kids always think I'm doing something for them, but they're actually doing something for me," he said. "Words cannot define the feeling they give back to me."
Jolie McCullough is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.