Two remarkable hunters were awarded the SCI Foundation Pathfinder Award at the 2016 SCI Convention in February. A Pathfinder is “one that finds a way or finds a new route”.
SCI Foundation Pathfinders are people who are faced with challenges in life that cause them to find new ways to live and overcome the challenge of being engaged in outdoor activities. These hunters also give their time to help their community and promote hunting for other disabled hunters.
This year’s Pathfinder Award winners are Monica Kamal of Madison, Wisconsin and Kirk Thomas from Winterville, Georgia.
Monica Kamal has only hunted as a disabled person. While volunteering for one of her son’s school field trips to a local ski hill, she tried to avoid a collision. Her skis caught the side of the run causing her to lose balance, fall and slide into a tree. The accident caused a spinal cord injury paralyzing her at mid-chest. Monica is the founding member of Madison Spinal Cord, Inc. In 2013, she started the Access Ability Wisconsin, an organization dedicated to facilitating and providing the means for individuals with mobility challenges to access and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources. She volunteers and facilitates projects for nonprofits to acquire adaptive outdoor equipment to help persons with disabilities. She has hunted every year since 2010, harvesting turkeys and pheasants, and has not yet successfully harvested the illusive whitetail deer.
Kirk Thomas was injured in 1992 while hunting alone in the woods not far from his home in Georgia. A tree fell on him when he was walking back to his truck, crushing his back and shoulder and breaking several ribs. He lives with constant nerve pain. Kirk returned to crossbow hunting upon being discharged from rehab. Kirk founded the Wheelin’ Sportsmen Program in 1996. He created Outdoors with Limits, hosting 100’s of hunting, fishing, shooting & archery events over the years for anyone with a disability. Kirk is a public speaker, telling his story and promoting hunting opportunities for disabled people. Kirk has hunted bison, whitetail deer, and elk and particularly likes to hunt turkey and dove.
The SCI Foundation Pathfinder program provides funding to SCI Chapters in support of their activities that engage disabled, terminally ill, wounded military and veterans who are hunters into the outdoors. Often, the reintroduction to nature and hunting helps these hunters to find their way to adapt to their life changes and challenges and helping others along the way.
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