Bucking the odds

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mike Daniels, owner of the Valdosta, Ga.-based Acute Rehab, has helped to make the disabled community's dream of hunting a reality for seven years now. Each fall, he organizes the Able Dis-able Hunt at the private Grand Bay Hunting Club in Naylor, Ga., giving up to 20 children and adults in wheelchairs the opportunity to see and kill deer.
But this year was the best year--by far. All of the 16 children and adults who participated in the Nov. 4 hunt saw deer and half of them bagged one, Daniels said.
"That's a phenomenal success rate, especially for people in wheelchairs," he said.
For the first time, the children and adults used 10 camouflaged deer stands. Daniels and a volunteer built the wheelchair-accessible stands--valued, with materials and labor, at $1,200--with money donated from local businesses. They placed them in the woods in early August, allowing the deer to get used to them.
The stands were key to this year's success, Daniels said.
"They helped people to shoot, and they helped to keep everyone warm and dry," he said.
Eight-year-old Ethan Fricke killed his first deer during this year's hunt. Fricke, who was accompanied by his dad, Roger, doesn't use a wheelchair, but he suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on the nerves.
"Just seeing how excited he was--I got so much enjoyment out of it," Daniels said.
Though the event does get Acute Rehab's name out there, the Able Dis-able Hunt isn't a way to promote business, Daniels said.
"It's just a way to give back and hunting's something I love to do," said Daniels, who estimates he goes hunting at least every other day from late October to mid-January. "It's part of who Mike Daniels is."
Thanks to Daniels and other volunteers, it's now part of who the disabled are, too.