by MATT NORMAN
The great outdoors have long served as a way to explore and discover. The adventures experienced were part of growing up and for many families, these adventures include hunting. While some families head to the beach for family vacations, others would rather go to the woods, where many great moments and long lasting memories are made.
Sadly, for many children with disabilities, adventures such as these are hard to come by. Their families simply lack the means or the ability to provide these sort of experiences. One organization is working fill the gap, Kidz Outdoors. Many kids today spend very little time outdoors, much less in the woods or wilderness. But, for someone who has the desire, but not the means, it’s exciting to know that there are people working to make it possible.
Kidz Outdoors organizes and leads hunting exhibitions. However, it’s about so much more than just hunting. In their own words their goal is to develop “a passion that is born through firsthand experience.” Through outdoor adventures that include hunting, fishing, trapping, or just shooting at the range, the kids that take part in these programs develop an appreciation, respect, and even love for the outdoors. This connection to the outdoors can have long lasting benefits in how these young people treat the environment around them for many years to come. Ultimately, the hunting, fishing, and other activities are just tools used to connect with kids and to teach them values and skills that will serve them well into their future.
More than just a kid’s camp, Kidz Outdoors includes parents and other family members in these trips. The hope is to make these experiences into something that the entire family can enjoy and remember for years to come. For a child, there are few things greater in life than the memory of times spent with their mom or dad. Those moments serve to bring them closer together and can create, or strengthen, a bond that can have benefits far beyond what happens in the woods that day.
Many experiences for kids, sadly, don’t include kids with disabilities. Kidz Outdoors is different. On their website, they share stories of kids with disabilities, kids that might not normally have an opportunity to be in the woods, and certainly not to hunt.
One specific story involves a boy with cerebral palsy who, with very limited ability to use his arms and very limited coordination, was able to attend his first turkey hunt through Kidz Outdoors. Through the experience he learned how to shoot and was able to get his very first turkey. His family was able to experience this with him. The team was able to set us a special rig that allowed the young man to fire the gun himself, safely and effectively. So, when he got his first turkey, it truly was HIS turkey. A year later he was presented with the stuffed and mounted turkey at a special presentation ceremony.
Another story is of a boy with almost no use of his arms. His only mode of transportation is with a wheelchair that he controls with a joystick and a “puffer” device with which he uses his breath to control the chair. The team at Kidz Outdoors set up a special rig using the same sort of “puffer” device used on his chair to allow him to fire the gun and get his first turkey as well. Watching his mother run over to the blind that he was in, hug him and kiss him and tell him how proud she was of him was truly beautiful.
Moments like this is why Kidz Outdoors exists. But that’s not all. They also work through their own charitable organization to raise money for organizations and hospitals focused on research and treatment of cancer and other childhood diseases.
Kidz Outdoors has local chapters in seven states throughout the southeast, including a chapter in Central Florida. The mission of these local chapters is the same as that of Kidz Outdoors: “Forming bonds by linking family and friends to pass on our passion for the outdoors to a new generation. Raising funds for hospitals and research centers in hope to find cures for cancer and other childhood diseases.” For more information, visit their website at kidzoutdoors.org to learn more about the company’s history, upcoming events, and various chapters.