In March 2004, several people, representing many different agencies, came together to find common ground for planning an event to fill a special need in Southwest Missouri. The agencies represented at the first meeting were the Southwest Center for Independent Living, National Wild Turkey Federation, NWTF-Wheelin’ Sportsmen, NWTF-Sho-me Chapter of Springfield, The Network, Springfield Regional Center, Ozark Prosthetics, and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The result of this first meeting was an annual event called A Day at the Range and Outdoor Adventure Fair. The event is held on the third Saturday of June, and has been since its inception. The participants, their families, caregivers, and many dedicated volunteers, endure sometimes extreme weather to ensure participants are able to have an enjoyable day outdoors shooting, fishing, and learning about nature and hunting. The goals of the event are simple:
* Provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to experience and participate in outdoor activities.
* Introduce people with disabilities, and their families, to additional opportunities to experience the outdoors.
* Increase participation and support of conservation programs and preservation of outdoor heritage.
The first event in 2004 was attended by 109 participants, with 18 of those being children, and it grew to 1,000 people attending the event in 2014.
Through the synergy of the partnership between organizations, an annual managed deer hunt and a managed turkey hunt for people with disabilities was created. While there have been many events conducted at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center during the 15 years of its existence, none has been as meaningful and rewarding as the Day at the Range and Outdoor Adventure Fair for staff and volunteers.
These events challenge participants to test their personal limitations when shooting, hunting, and fishing. Many think, due to a life altering situation, they can no longer do the things they once enjoyed doing, and this process lets them learn this is not necessarily the case. Once they find out all they need is a small piece of adaptive equipment to continue an activity, many go to work and procure that device.
The big winner in all of this is the participant! We see higher self-esteem, more confidence, and lots of big smiles when someone gets to shoot a gun for the first time, or catch their first fish.
All of our events are free to participants, and through generous donations to the DATR committee, a hotdog and hamburger lunch is provided to all in attendance at no charge.
The Southwest Center for Independent Living has become a major contributor to the event, by providing transportation for participants to get to and from the event using their disabled accessible vans and buses, as well as mementos for participants to take home.
Our programs have won national recognition, and awards, for the best event of its kind in the nation from the National Wild Turkey Federation. Our committee has provided numerous training to various agencies across the country, and our programs have become a model for many agencies and organizations to follow.
If you know of someone with a disability, whom you believe would benefit from our events, we invite you to tell them about us, and encourage them to get involved. If you know of someone who would like to give of themselves by sharing their passion and knowledge, we invite them to become a volunteer and serve on the committee, or at the event.
Read on to find out how this great adventure got it's start