HAMMOND — When the hot, humid days of summer turn into cool crisp days of autumn, Trevor Murray, 14, of Albany, will see his dream come true when he is escorted on a deer hunt at a private camp near Liberty, Mississippi.
Murray, a dedicated outdoorsman despite having challenges from Down syndrome, learned Saturday that he will be the next recipient of a deer hunting trip courtesy of Outdoorsmen Helping Others, a nonprofit organization that makes adventures into the outdoors possible for youngsters with physical and mental limitations.
The group, which counts members from four parishes in southeast Louisiana, held its annual sportsman’s banquet Saturday.
Attendees cheered Murray as he received the news of his upcoming trip.
Murray waved his arms in celebration when OHO President Dave Townsend called him to the stage. Townsend termed the moment “the most important thing that we have to do tonight. Once again, we have shared our love for the outdoors with a deserving young man who is on his way to the greatest adventure of his life.”
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for physically challenged youth to enjoy the outdoors and share the camaraderie of sport hunting and fishing,” said Townsend’s daughter Lacy Corrick, who is active in the organization.
Corrick said OHO funds and arranges hunting and fishing trips and uses adaptive equipment for the physically challenged. Every trip into the outdoors presents different and special circumstances for someone with special needs, and OHO volunteers must take into consideration the person’s needs during each outdoor adventure, she said.
For example, OHO has taken youngsters who use wheelchairs on outdoor trips, and all arrangements must be made beforehand to ensure that the wheelchair can be accommodated in an outdoor setting, Corrick said.
A prime example of how sporting equipment is being modified to fit the needs of handicapped individuals was on display at the banquet. A hunting rifle mounted on a unique stand uses special electronic equipment to allow blind people to hunt. An adapter on the rifle’s telescopic sights transfers an exact image of what is seen through the “scope” onto an electronic monitor that is viewed by the volunteer assisting the blind hunter. If the image on the scope lines up with a targeted animal, the hunter is instructed to shoot.
Volunteers with OHO donate their time to ensure that older children and young adults can enjoy outdoor pursuits. Corrick said the reward of seeing handicapped individuals become successful at harvesting game is worth the effort.
Zane Toney, who was treated to a hunting trip several years ago by OHO, knows the feeling of success, he said. Zane, who attended the Saturday fundraiser with his parents, Randy and Terry Toney, said he killed his first deer while on the trip. Hunting in the St. Francisville area, Zane said, he remembers killing a European red stag.
“This meant everything to me. … I found out that day that I could actually do something,” Zane said. “It meant that someone cared enough to take me hunting to a place where I had a chance to get a deer. I had never been a successful hunter before but these people made a hunter out of me.”
His father also had praise for OHO: “This is a great group. … They show these kids how to hunt and fish and take them to places where there is a good chance of their being successful.”
OHO hosts several activities to raise money to bring youngsters fishing and hunting. Saturday’s event featured $10 dinners, silent and live auctions, several raffles and the sale of outdoor-related products. The auction drew spirited bidding wars between patrons. The barbecue chicken dinners, courtesy of Hammond businessman Porter Horgan, also were popular.
A number of raffle prizes and auction items were donated by sporting goods stores. Professional hunting and fishing guides and hunting lodges donated their services and facilities as both auction items and venues for handicapped outdoorsmen.
While OHO relies on the voluntary services of fishing guides and hunting lodges, the organization pays any additional transportation, food and lodging expenses for sending physically handicapped young people and their families or attendants to fishing and hunting sites, Corrick said.
Caley Lucas sold small plastic fishing lures “by the handful” to help the organization. Her mother, Terai Lucas, said Caley had received financial assistance through OHO when she was sick.
OHO also raises funds throughout the year at other outdoor events, and is present at one or more of the annual sportsmen’s shows held in the area in the spring.
Recipients of outdoor expeditions are chosen from a list of area youth and young adults submitted to OHO. Corrick said one of the organization’s biggest challenges is educating the public about OHO and locating worthy candidates for hunting, fishing and possibly other outdoor adventures. “Even though we have been providing outings for those with physical and other disabilities for about 10 years, we are still trying to get word of our organization out to the public,” she said.
Townsend is optimistic about the future of Outdoorsmen Helping Others. “We know what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of some very special young people,” he said. “The euphoria that our young hunters and fishermen feel when they are successful at taking part in hunting and fishing trips is worth all the work. We know that we are providing these great young people with something they will never forget, and that’s why we keep at it. There will always be special individuals who want to experience the sports that we enjoy despite their incapacities, and we will be here to help them out.”