Outdoors Without Limits

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kirk Thomas, the original founder of Wheelin' Sportsmen of America, recently resigned his position with Wheelin' Sportsmen/NWTF to co-create Outdoors Without Limits (www.outdoorswithoutlimits.org) — an innovative, community-based, non-profit program providing empowering, life-changing hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor experiences for physically and mentally challenged people.

Thomas, Outdoors Without Limits' Chief Executive Officer, has been an active member of the outdoor community for three decades—the last 14 years in a wheelchair following an accident while deer hunting. He believes Outdoors Without Limits provides vital and unique outdoor experiences for the entire community--and fills a need for the differently-abled person to accomplish something special while connecting with others interested in the outdoors and share similar lifestyles.

"Outdoors Without Limits is based on the concept of a community-based chapter system that encourages the entire community to get directly involved in helping people in their own city or town," explained Thomas. Outdoors Without Limits events will not be just a singular experience but will be an opportunity for people, the disabled and volunteers, to be involved year-round in building relationships through outdoor activities that emphasize the personal experience for each participant.

"Our goal is to make people's lives better. We use the beauty, challenge and spirit of the outdoors to inspire, empower and motivate both the disabled- and able-bodied person," Thomas said. "What we're really doing is creating opportunities for differently-abled people to succeed at experiences many thought they would never have. And, at the same time, these experiences are a two-way street--the rewards for everyone who gets involved are immense."

Outdoors Without Limits is the outreach program of the Pursuing a Dream Foundation which was founded by Dave and Jane Owen of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Owens worked for four years to overcome stereotypes and support the needs of disabled people in Western Michigan. After meeting Thomas they decided to take their dream national and launch Outdoors Without Limits.

"Outdoors Without Limits will change people's lives," said Dave Owen, National Outdoors Without Limits Board President. "Jane and I are thrilled to be part of this dynamic, new organization because we know it will break down barriers and have a positive, enriching impact on so many good people."

The program's mission is supported, and largely made possible, by volunteers who see how hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities improve life for the handicapped individuals who participate—creating excitement, raising self-esteem, hope and initiating a positive connection with the natural world. Local banquets, called an "Awareness Benefit and Dinner," help raise awareness in local communities of both the need for these special outdoor activities and the opportunity for caring outdoorsmen and -women to get involved, give something back to their community and make life better for deserving—and appreciative—individuals. The dinners also help raise the funds needed to conduct the outdoor events.

Outdoors Without Limits already has a staff of 10 Regional Vice President's, who collectively have over 100 years of experience and dedication to working with people with disabilities. In a few short months, they have recruited enough volunteers to form chapters that have scheduled over 100 Benefit Dinners for 2007 across the country.

"But," Thomas said, "We have only scratched the surface. There is a growing, nationwide need for more opportunities, more events, and chapters. We need people who understand how important it is to connect with nature and who also care about giving everyone a chance to experience the outdoors to consider how they can help…and then make some time to get involved with the Outdoors Without Limits program."

Those who care and want more information on Outdoors Without Limits events and how to get involved with these life-changing activities can log on to www.outdoorswithoutlimits.org, write to Outdoors Without Limits at 119 Calhoun Street, Johnson City, SC 29832; email: kthomas@outdoorswithoutlimits.com or call Kirk Thomas at (803) 275-5635 (office); (803) 480-0167 (mobile).


USDA Seeks Help In Testing Wildlife For Rabies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services is asking for the public’s help as it works to determine the frequency of rabies in southeastern Tennessee raccoons.  Anyone who encounters a raccoon that is sick-acting or behaving unusually is asked to report the animal. No raccoons in Tennessee have tested positive for the raccoon variant, or variety, of rabies ... (click for more)

Entrance Fee Waived At Point Park On National Public Lands Day

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park announce the waiver of entrance fees to Point Park, atop Lookout Mountain, on Saturday, Sept. 27. Visitors are invited to experience the majestic views of Chattanooga’s surrounding landscapes from the nation’s first national military park. National Public Lands Day is a time when Americans are encouraged to visit a park and ... (click for more)

EPB Officials Huddle With Attorneys Over City Street Lighting Issue

EPB board members huddled with attorneys on the issue of billing for city street lights on Friday morning. EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson asked for the private session with attorneys Rick Hitchcock and Tom Greenholtz of Chambliss Bahner. Don Lepard, owner of Global Green Lighting, earlier filed a $10 million "whistle blower" lawsuit, claiming overbilling by EPB on street lighting. ... (click for more)

City Council Taking Applications From Those Interested In Serving On City IDB

The City Council is taking applications from those interested in serving on the city industrial Development Board (IDB).   There are four vacancies on the board that has been in the news for its controversial approval and re-approval of $9 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for developers of Aetna Mountain. Resumes are due by Sept. 29.   ... (click for more)

Walking Among Memories, The USS LST-325

I have walked among the head stones at Flanders Fields and have seen the entrenchment of soldiers with only bayonet tips sticking out of the earth. Later I traveled to Normandy where I stood on the sand and made scuff marks with my shoes on Omaha Beach and climbed the hill to the magnificent American Cemetery there. I again walked among the many, many tomb stones so neatly and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Troubling Jameis Winston

One of the greatest things about the American legal system is that each and every crime is judged on its own merits. Just because Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy were each arrested for domestic abuse earlier this week, each National Football League football hero will be given an independent hearing and trial, if need be, ... (click for more)