Sultan teen battling disease gets VIP tour of Cabela’s

TULALIP — Christopher Butler knew his grandmother was taking him to Cabela’s on Friday, but he had no idea that 20 employees would cheer him when he entered the store.

Christopher, 15, of Sultan, has juvenile Huntington’s disease, a terminal condition that affects a person’s ability to think, talk and move.

He had been talking about wanting to go elk hunting, which his grandmother and guardian, Karen Falk, mentioned to a few people at her church.

One thing led to another and soon, the Tulalip Cabela’s and other organizations had it all planned out, including a tour of the store with quick tutorials from staff members on pitching a tent, casting a fishing line, tying a fly, bow hunting, calling elk and firearm basics.

A hunt is planned for this fall in Oregon.

Christopher was asked how he felt when he walked through the door to cheers and high-fives from the staff.

“Excited,” he said.

Bob Simpson, who belongs to Falk’s church, also is a member of the Seattle branch of Safari Club International, a hunting organization. Simpson approached Cabela’s and set up the store tour. Arrangements were made with Eden Ridge Outfitters of Myrtle Point, Ore., to take Christopher on the trip.

Safari Club International is footing the entire bill for the trip, estimated at about $2,000, group member Wade Winder said.

In-kind contributions include donations of clothing and equipment from Cabela’s and the services of the taxidermist who mounts the animals at the Cabela’s store in Lacey. Altogether the trip will be worth about $4,000, Winder said.

Christopher will be closely supervised on the outing, but when the group encounters an elk, he’ll be the one to bring it down.

“He’s going to do the trigger pulling,” Simpson said.

Falk expressed joy and gratitude for all that is being done for her grandson.

“This is amazing,” she said during Friday’s tour.

Huntington’s disease causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, affecting a person’s functional abilities and usually results in movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Christopher’s brother, Lucas, died from the disease earlier this year, Falk said. He was 21.

The inherited condition most often strikes adults in their 40s or 50s, according to the Mayo Clinic, but also can strike children.

When it does, the disease progresses faster. It’s usually fatal within 15 years of the onset of symptoms, according to Falk — or, in Lucas’ case, five.

Christopher’s symptoms began appearing about two years ago, Falk said.

“We’re still praying for a cure,” she said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439;

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