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2009 Ultimate Adventure Deer Hunt coming Jan. 15-18

Kirk Thomas’ 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.

What others might deem a tragic accident, Thomas views as a “gift from God.”

“Being disabled has given me the opportunity to help others,” he said. “At that time, I was the only disabled person that I knew. But all of that has changed. Being disabled is a gift of God.”

Several years after the “accident,” Thomas founded Wheelin’ Sportsmen America, which provided outdoor activity events for those with handicaps. Just over a year ago, he founded Outdoors Without Limits, OWL, a faith-based organization, that provides outdoor and life changing experiences for those with disabilities.

“OWL is all about education and opportunities,” Thomas said. “We want to educate those with disabilities about activities in the outdoors and offer them opportunities to participate. Through our local chapter system OWL is able to create opportunities and provide participation in the great outdoors.”

Thomas is in Troy this week working with the OWL Troy Chapter as final preparations are being made for what he said will be one of the biggest outdoor hunting events for those with disabilities.

Mike Swindall and his son, Todd Swindall, spearheaded the organization efforts of the local OWL chapter and hosted a local deer hunt in 2008 that attracted 12 hunters with disabilities.

That local hunt was the catalyst for the 2009 Ultimate Adventure Deer Hunt, a national event Jan. 15-18 at Swindall’s RV Park in Troy.

“We have 104 hunters registered for the hunt and we expect to have 500 or more people here,” Swindall said. “Most of the hunters will bring family members and some will bring friends. We are hoping that the community will get involved and support the Ultimate Adventure Deer Hunt.”

Swindall said 32 landowners are allowing the use of their land for the hunts and more land is needed because of the large number of hunters registered. Volunteers are needed as hunting guides, drivers and for everything from cook to bottle washer.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to see these people enjoying deer hunting and the outdoors,” Swindall said. “Some of them have few opportunities if any to go hunting and just to be a part of something like this is its own reward.”

The Pike County community is invited to participate in ways other than “behind the scenes.”

“We’ll have eight meals that will be served on site and the public is invited,” Swindall said. “A ticket for all eight meals is $30 and tickets will be sold for the individual meals for $15 each.”

The doors will open at 5:30 on Thursday night, Jan. 15, for the silent auction and raffle. A barbecue dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with special guests, Troy University Coach Larry Blakeney and Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

A welcome party featuring a catfish supper and dance with Flat Creek Band will be Friday night. An appreciation dinner will be on Saturday night. The closing event on Sunday morning will be a Southern breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by a worship service. Howie Damron of Nashville will be the featured singer at the worship service.

“The 2009 Ultimate Adventure Deer Hunt will be an opportunity for the participants to feel whole,” Thomas said. “This is a chance for them to enjoy the outdoors and, perhaps, harvest a deer. The fun and fellowship of a hunt like this is a real blessing to the hunters, their families and all involved.”

Thomas said there are 62 million people in the United States with a disability.

“In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a national survey and found that just over seven million disabled people participated in wildlife related recreation. That’s 11 percent of the disabled population compared to 39 percent of the non-disabled population that participate. That’s why what OWL does is so important. And, that’s why we do what we do. We invite the Pike County community to come and see what we do.”

For more information about the 2009 Ultimate Adventure Deer Hunt or to volunteer or make a donation to the non-profit organization, call 482-2444 or 566-8353.