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).


Gear Closet Extends Hours; Supports Clean Water Initiatives, Locally And Globally

The Gear Closet, in North Chattanooga, is extending its hours. It will be open six days a week, from Tuesday through Sunday from 12-6 p.m. each day. Earth Day gear drive can encourage the public to do some spring cleaning and donate or consign your old gear and clothing. There will also be a drop off available at Recycle Signal on Signal Mountain as part of the Recycle Challenge ... (click for more)

Kentucky Lake Wounded Soldier Open Bass Tournament Scheduled For May 17

Registration is underway for the Fifth Annual Wounded Soldier Open Bass Tournament to be held at Paris Landing on Kentucky Lake, Saturday, May 17. The tournament format will be a three-fish limit with a guaranteed first prize of $2,000. The cost of the tournament is $110 per boat (two anglers maximum). Entrants who register by the end of the day on May 1 will receive a free ... (click for more)

Man Shot On Cannon Avenue Early Saturday Morning

A man was shot early Saturday morning on Cannon Avenue. At approximately 5:30 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Cannon Ave. for shots fired.  Shortly after receiving the call, officers learned that a victim arrived at a local hospital.  The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the right leg and is undergoing treatment. The injury is not considered to be life-threatening.  ... (click for more)

Child Playing With Cigarette Lighter Starts $25,000 Mobile Home Fire

A child playing with a cigarette lighter started a mobile home fire on Saturday morning. At 9 a.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire at 6561 Cassie Lane. It took four fire companies about 10 minutes to get the fire under control. The fire was contained to one bedroom. No injuries were reported. Damage to the home is around $25,000. (click for more)

When The City Was Silent

I don't know how to say this without getting my head handed back to me on a platter as is often the usual case. But at least I no longer receive the hateful (even threatening) emails and insults I became accustomed to. So I'll just bite and say it: I honestly don't see anything expressed by the NSM that hasn't been said locally on some level at one time or another, and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: God Could Use You…

In the spring of 1968, this just before pro golfer Billy Casper would win six tournaments that year and be the leading money winner on the tour, the wildly-popular “Buffalo Bill” was in Japan playing some off-season tournaments. He was asked if he would like to visit some American soldiers who had been seriously wounded and Casper, ever the gentleman, said of course. As he melted ... (click for more)