By Kelley Lane-Sivley, Redstone Rocket StaffMay 28, 2009
When an injury changes your physical abilities, it can feel like your whole life has changed. Steve Statler is trying to let others know that it doesn't have to mean giving up the activities you love. Despite his own limitations, he is sharing the love of the outdoors with others.
Statler, a logistics management specialist at LOGSA, lost all feeling in his feet due to a surgical spinal injury, making standing and walking difficult. Surgery to fuse his feet made it possible, but his doubts about his physical capabilities made it feel like he had lost much more.
"I grew up hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania," he said. "It was a part of who I was."
Rather than letting the injury set mental limitations as well, Statler decided that he would just have to find new ways to continue his old hobbies, fishing and hunting. That quest has led him to found a nonprofit camp for others who are looking to experience nature with limited mobility.
"It made a difference for me," he said. "Knowing that I could do the things I loved again. I want to share that feeling with others."
The result is Camp OutAmongEm. Statler has turned his own land on Cloud Mountain along the Paint Rock River into a hunting camp that accommodates the needs of the young and disabled. In its inaugural year, the camp has hosted three successful hunts for those with physical limitations. Some are first timers. Others are like Statler, looking for a way to pick up the pieces of what they lost along with their injuries.
"The smile on their faces when they realize they can do it is amazing," Statler said. "It's a healing thing."
Statler also works with other landowners to provide a variety of venues for the trips. Enjoying the outdoors is easier for the physically limited when the right accommodations are made, he said.
"You make arrangements, such as ground stands and blinds. You may need a vehicle to get them where they need to go," he explained. "We have caregivers who give them whatever help they may need. Their support is essential."
Getting back to the activities he has enjoyed since childhood has been therapeutic for Statler, as has working with others. The peace to be found outdoors goes much deeper than the satisfaction from landing a fish or harvesting a deer.
"There's a camaraderie," Statler said. "You sit at camp together. You might play cards or just talk. It's not just about the hunting."
He hopes to pass along the peace he has found. He is working with the Semper Fi Community Task Force to sponsor hunting trips for wounded warriors from throughout the nation beginning this year. Longer hunting seasons in the area make the Camp OutAmongEm project ideal for wounded warriors.
"Our hunting season lasts through the end of January. Most northern states only have two weeks. Here we have two and a half months to work with," Statler said. "It gives us more time to work with their schedules and when they can come."
The excursions are free for those who make the trip. Everything from travel to accommodations and meals is provided at no cost. For more information on Camp OutAmongEm and disabled hunting, e-mail Statler at email@example.com