Meridian Star

Outdoors

January 11, 2013

A Dream Fulfilled: Outdoors Without Limits

MERIDIAN —    Kainen Gilley was born blind and with a mild case of cerebral palsy. He was just a small boy when Kirk Thomas had an accident that changed Thomas’ life. Thomas’ accident would eventually have a great impact on both their lives. Though they were many years and worlds apart, that accident and fate would later bring them together, and have a profound impact on Gilley’s life.

    Thomas, a mountain of a man, was a star football player and the consummate outdoorsman. He played ball with a fire rarely seen among athletes nowadays. After a freak hunting accident occurred, when a tree fell on him, Thomas was left paralyzed from the waist down. He was forced to look at life from a different perspective. Like a lot of accident victims he thought his life was over. His first thoughts were that he would never hunt again, or be a productive citizen.

    While Thomas was going through an extreme range of emotions like most accident victims experience, his  friends unexpectedly picked him up one day and carried him to the woods. Instead of looking at what he couldn’t do, they focused on the possibilities. They carried him to the woods on a hunt. Later he would hunt fields, pipelines, and other areas out of his truck, as there were no blinds available for paralyzed or wheelchair bound hunters at that time.

    As a result of that accident and eventual positive hunting experience with his friends, Thomas realized that he could have a productive life after the accident. And more importantly, Thomas experienced a dream, or vision, about people all over the country helping each other. That dream led to an idea which was realized through the birth of “Wheelin’ Sportsmen.” Of course Thomas became the organization’s founder and CEO.

    Thomas eventually invited Gilley to participate in a disabled hunt and low and behold helped the blind boy to see! See good enough to harvest his first deer, even though he was blind as a bat.

    Through extensive preparation, knowledge and hands on instruction from Thomas and friends, Gilley did everything but look through his scope as his dad stood behind him and instructed him where to aim. And aim and shoot he did, and the rest is history. Many blind people have now participated in Thomas’ hunts with great success!

     Thomas now operates the Outdoors Without Limits (OWLS) an organization that is even more powerful in providing disabled hunters not only a chance to hunt and fish but to have a say in how their local chapter is run.

     Meridian and East Mississippi residents will have an opportunity to join in with Outdoors Without Limits and make a difference today and tomorrow as the OWLS holds its annual Meridian hunt. After an afternoon hunt they will have a fundraising dinner Friday night at Evangel Temple and then have guided hunts Saturday morning and afternoon.

    “My disability is the greatest blessing of my life,” Kirk Thomas said. “It’s just a blessing from me to be involved with these disabled people. Every time one of these hunters kills a deer it’s the same as if I kill one.”

    How can you change the world? One person at a time! “When you volunteer and help out, you can be their eyes, legs, feet, hands and you take away their disability," Thomas said.

    “Although I can’t reach every disabled person in the world, my goal is to touch as many people in person as I can,” Thomas continued.

    Yes, just imagine what the world would be like if Thomas had not had his accident. And now imagine the possibilities that he has introduced to the world. Nothing is impossible when you have a little help from your friends.

    If you don’t believe one person can make a difference, just ask Kainen Gilley. He’ll tell you what a blessing it was to meet Thomas and to be able to participate on a disabled hunt. Thomas’ latest organization (OWLS) gives disabled hunters even greater opportunities to do what they love, while also putting the focus entirely on their successes and opportunities to get outdoors.

    If you’re interested in helping make a difference in somebody’s life contact Kirk Thomas at 803-480-0167. You’ll be glad you did, I guarantee!

    Contact  Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or e-mail him at mikegiles18@comcast.net

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