NRA Manager of Disabled Shooting Services Vanessa Warner was in Oklahoma this week to run a shooting clinic at the 10th Annual Endeavor Games. Here's her report:
I arrived in Oklahoma Wednesday for the 10th Annual Endeavor Games at University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, OK. The Endeavor Games were started 10 years ago for individuals of all ages and physical disabilities to compete in a athletic events. Events include: rowing, archery, bowling, track and field, weight lifting and shooting. This year, I was asked by UCO to conduct a new shooter clinic on Thursday June 11, 2009.
Although the clinic wasn't scheduled to start until 2 p.m., I arrived at the Field House a few hours early to meet with Bob Foth - USA Shooting’s Paralympics Coach/Manager. The archery clinic was in full swing when I arrive at the field house. I met up with Bob and quickly introduced him to a couple of competitors from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta who attended the archery clinic.
While at the wellness center for lunch, we met Roger Sack from West Virginia. Since neither Bob nor I could stay for the match this weekend, Roger agreed to serve as match director for Saturday’s air gun competition.
Once our meal was over, I met a man in a wheelchair whose left leg was amputated just above the knee. Now at an event like the Endeavor games, missing limbs and wheelchairs are nothing special. What was special about this man was his sense of humor. Just above the tip of his stump was a tattoo of a dotted line and the words “Cut below dotted line”. He told me he just had the tattoo done and loved the comments he received. With that in mind, we all lined up for pictures and showered him with out attention.
After lunch break, Bob, Roger and I headed back to the field house to help set up the range and prepare for the first of two clinics. Though only fourteen had registered for the first clinic we ended up with approximately 25! A few quick thoughts and introductions later, we doubled up our firing points staff, went over the safety briefings, reviewed the range commands, and let the participants get down to the business of shooting. Attendees were rotated from discipline to discipline to ensure that everyone had a chance to try both rifle and pistol. Most agreed that pistol was the more difficult of the two.
Before the day began, we planned to perform a clinic review during our break between sessions. We soon realized that was going to happen after participants for session two started arriving during session one. I started checking in the new class while Bob and Roger finished up with the first one. Though there weren't as many participants, the second class went much like the first.
We totaled just under fifty students by the end of the day. Their stories, circumstances, and experiences varied as much their ages (which ranged between 10 and 60.) There were members of the military as well as a few teenage girls from the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama. The girls were tentative at first -- but after a little coaching and encouragement, they turned into true competitors. Each left with targets in hand and smiles on their face.
I met one shooter at the archery event. He told me how a shrapnel hit over six years ago resulted in an almost complete loss of vision. In fact, Mark was only able to see the equivalent of a pinhole out of his right eye. I invited him to the afternoon clinic and, once he arrived, gave him a gun with a scope. His performance was one of the best of the Games.
The day wound down and things became quiet. By this time, most shooters either left the facility or were taking their final shots when Frank from Florida arrived. He was wearing a festive hat and one of the greatest t-shirts I have ever seen. It was the universal symbol for those with disabilities: the blue box with a person in a wheelchair. The slogan read “I’m only in it for the parking”. We finished laughing, cracked some jokes, and took few pictures of Frank. He summed things up beautifully by saying, “Life is too short take myself too seriously. I can’t change what happened to me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a sense of humor about it.”