OWL  program looks to educate residents

Published 12:04 am Thursday, February 10, 2011

Local residents with disabilities will soon have the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a different light and “bridge the gap between the disabled and non-disabled.”

Susan Craig, an organizer for the Covi-ngton County Chapter of Outdoors Without Limits, said the organization is working to get the disabled outdoors.

“We pair up the disabled with non-disabled to participate in a number of outdoor events,” she said.

Outdoors without Limits is a faith-based organization, founded by Kirk Thomas, whose spine was crushed when a tree fell on him as he made his way back to his truck after a morning of deer hunting in 1992.

Several years after the accident, Thomas founded Wheelin’ Sportsmen America, which provided outdoor activity events for those with handicaps. A little more than two years ago, he founded OWL, which provides outdoor and life-changing experiences for those with disabilities.

Craig, who is also disabled and in a wheelchair, said she was a member of Wheelin’ Sportsman American previously.

“I have been involved with this type of program before,” she said.

Craig said part of the chapter requirements is to hold a yearly awareness banquet and at least two events, which could include a picnic in the park, wildlife photography, hunting, fishing, camping and even a trip to the zoo. And that’s just a few possibilities, she said.

The program is designed to increase awareness, resources and opportunities that directly impact people and the communities where they live.

Statistics show, nearly 250,000 people each year stop pursuing outdoor passions due to illness or accident.

OWL strives to challenge stereotypes about disability and promote awareness of “ability” in a positive environment.

Currently there are about 12 who are active in the new local OWL chapter, and Craig said organizers need more members to make the chapter successful.

“We need to get as many as we can,” she said. “We need people to be able to help, and we know that not everyone can help all the time.”

The awareness banquet will be held March 12 at the Oakwood Lodge with doors opening at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for singles; $40 for couples; $10 per child 12-17 and free for children under 12, and prices also include one membership to OWL.

“This is our first awareness banquet,” Craig, who along with a board of directors has been working to get the organization up and running since January, said. “This is an opportunity to offer education. If they’ve never shot a gun, we’ll teach them how. It’s also about educating the non-disabled on how to handle us and what we need. We’re trying to break the barrier down between disabled and non-disabled.”

For more information, call 222-9609.