On June 21, 2014, the Oregon Sportsman’s Club hosted a fundraiser to purchase an all-terrain wheelchair (ATWC) so that individuals with physical mobility challenges can have independent access to Wisconsin’s outdoor resources whether hunting, mentoring, helping with conservation and habitat restoration, or simply getting out into the woods or on a trail.
This special sporting clay event combined with a family-oriented fundraiser was about nine months in the making. The goal was to bring in funds to purchase the first ATWC to be housed in Dane County for reservation and use by individuals with physical mobility challenges. This was very important since, at $15,000, an all-terrain wheelchair is often beyond the monetary reach of those who could benefit from its use. The time and team effort by the Oregon Sportsman’s Club Board, Steve D’Orazio, Kevin Hermanson, the Sporting Clays Team, Pheasants Forever Dane County Chapter and its Access Ability (AAW) Subchapter, contributors and numerous volunteers made this day a great success with over $6,400 brought in, 75% of the $15,000 needed for this project. Just as important as the money collected was the awareness raised about the need to make an all-terrain wheelchair available to those in need of independent access to enjoy getting outdoors.
With donated raffle prizes and lunch, the event was run by volunteers who hosted various activities for all ages. Whether one had mobility impairment or not, participation was encouraged in the sporting clays shoot, the single shot station, the archery station to shoot balloons or the Bucky Badger bean bag boards. Of course, over 10 Action Trackchairs were available for everyone to try. “Awesome!” and “Smiles!” were the words of the day for participants and volunteers. “Incredible and rewarding,” said Steve Spaeni, an AAW founder and OSC member, as he helped transfer participants from their standard wheelchairs into the all-terrain wheelchairs. “The freedom and smiles I see from the people who try the chair are the only rewards I need!”
Dustin Palenshus, a participant with a C6–7 spinal cord injury who needs a gun rest and trigger pull to successfully shoot, excitedly described, “This last Saturday, I was part of an absolutely wonderful event held at the Oregon Sportsman’s Club. This event was to raise money to get an Action Trackchair for Dane County. I had one of the best times I’ve had in a long time. I was able to get into an Action Trackchair and go shoot sporting clays for the first time ever! It was the first time I got to use my brand-new 12-gauge shotgun with my contraption. I also had a member of the Action Trackchair team come along with me. He did so much to help me including loading my gun and helping me with my hearing protection, and when it was over and done with, I hit 18 targets which was absolutely wonderful for my first time out. As we were walking back to the clubhouse, he asked me what I thought of the chair and I told him what I would do to improve it to make it more comfortable for somebody in my situation. With a C6–7 spinal cord injury and having been in a chair for the last seven years, there were just little things that needed improvement that would make it so much more comfortable and versatile. All in all, it was a great day at the range and I would love to do it again. Thanks to everyone that made this event possible!”
Monica Kamal notes that almost 300,000 people in Wisconsin have some sort of disability that limits their access to public or public land, including 5.7 million acres of public land in Wisconsin. The proven benefits of outdoor recreation should be available for everyone to enjoy! People with mobility challenges are often unable to enjoy time “off the beaten path,” to participate in activities like helping with conservation, outdoor activities with family and friends, and to reap the benefits of an outdoors experience because wild lands are not accessible to regular, narrow tire, wheelchairs. In addition, a great many of our senior population who typically use walkers or other assistive devices have difficulty navigating on rough terrain. One solution is to create a network of hard surface trails, but is cost prohibitive, and frankly, not the best way to manage wildlife habitat. Monica Kamal, a founder of AAW and OSC member, notes that not only can she independently and successfully pheasant hunt from this chair but also, “OSC members, Pheasant Forever members, and the general population with any type of mobility impairments have the ability to help in a wide variety of habitat improvement and sporting opportunities.” They can be volunteers at youth hunts and be positive mentors too. This chair and project provide opportunities for youth with physical disabilities to learn to hunt as they go hand in hand with No Child Left Indoors.
Another AAW founder and OSC member Ray Anderson explains, “Our All-Terrain Wheelchair Fundraiser at the Oregon Sportsman’s Club was a great success! It was wonderful to see the individuals using wheelchairs turn out and use the Action Trackchair. The smiles on the faces of the individuals experiencing, for the first time, the freedom an all-terrain wheelchair provided them was really neat to see. Watching others gain awareness and have an eye opening experience of how an all-terrain wheelchair becomes the boots and gear which allows those with physical mobility challenges to move around and through rough terrain and to participate in sporting clays and trapshooting was really good to see. Watching these experiences unfold before us was as rewarding as the amount of money raised to acquire an all-terrain wheelchair for use in Dane County,”
On August 8, PF-AAW, received approval on a matching grant submitted to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources for $10K. With this grant plus funds from the OSC Fundraiser and additional contributions, the ATWC has been purchased. This first all-terrain wheelchair in Dane County will be housed at the Oregon Sportsman’s Club. A November 15 ribbon cutting will be held at the OSC. Individuals will be able to check out and reserve the chair for their independent use.
What’s next? We’re working with Pheasants Forever in partnership with other organizations to acquire a second chair for Dane County and at least one chair for every county in Wisconsin. For more information on the AAW initiative and pictures, visit our website: www.AccessAbilityWI.org
Founder Madison Spinal Cord Injury Group
Member Oregon Sportsman’s Club
Member Pheasants Forever, Dane County Chapter