Reid Wilson ’10 makes it sound simple. He and wife Kelsey (Anderson) Wilson ’11 had a rescue dog with a broken leg who would want to go hunting again. They also had friends who used to hunt before becoming disabled. Why not put the two together and make everyone happy?
Thus Reid and Kelsey, along with Kelsey (Balk) ’11 and Jordan Grimm ’11, Austen Smith ’13, Chris Norton ’14, and Jeff Boeke ’80—with help from Michael Crocker ’14 and Carryn (Ensrude) ’99 and Mike Anderson ’99—founded Second Shot, a nonprofit organization that helps people with traumatic or debilitating injury or illness connect with the outdoors through hunting and fishing.
In early 2015, its first season, Second Shot led three outings. Last season it led four, and it’s aiming for another four this season. Its clients range from people with spinal cord injury to people with leukemia or multiple sclerosis. The Second Shot team, which is 100 percent volunteer, fundraises the costs associated with the outings, and they also raise money for client treatments and special causes.
Reid has a degree in physical therapy, and Kelsey Grimm will soon finish her physician assistant degree, so the group has a helpful medical background. In addition, Chris Norton, who suffered a spinal cord injury while an undergraduate and who founded the SCI CAN project to help others with neuromuscular deficiencies, offers advice about adaptive approaches the team might use to accommodate would-be hunters. But the Second Shot team maintains that the best approach is to let clients dictate the situation, because they know best how to move their bodies.
In outings that involve wheelchairs, the team makes an adaptive rig using a UTV (utility task vehicle). Often they will swing and aim a gun for a client, who will then pull the trigger him- or herself. In one case, when a client was unable to move his fingers, they built a prosthetic device that allowed him to pull the trigger after the shot was lined up.
Though the outings are long, and the Second Shot team routinely works 17 or 18 hours on a hunt day, the organization is never without willing volunteers (including Jerry Jaeger ’09 and Nathan Burger ’09). As Reid explains, “The hunting community is so tight and generous, and they want to be a part of this, because it’s so cool when you see someone in a wheelchair hunting. We always get a big audience, so we’ve met a lot of people that way. We have an email list, and we’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re going out on this date, we need three or four backup shooters, two or three camera people, three safety people, and a driver.’ We’ve never had a shortage of responses.”
Their sponsors, too, are generous, from property owners who share their land to business owners who lend trucks and camera equipment. John Balk ’83, Kelsey’s dad, even supplied the pheasant popper recipe that the team uses to cook a celebratory meal after a hunt.
The real reward of the day, according to Reid, comes before the pheasant poppers. He recalls a client in a wheelchair who could move his arms but not really his fingers. They waited a long time for a shot, but they finally got a pheasant. “We had the dogs bring it to him, and he got this really touching smile on his face,” Reid remembers. “These people have so many days where they have to be in care, and they’re so busy with appointments. Just to give them a day off, a break, is an amazing thing. All our volunteers remember that moment.”