When a law enforcement officer is shot in the line of duty, his or her life can in an instant change drastically or even end.
Those who are fortunate enough to survive may be disabled to the extent that they lose their ability to do many things they love. Runners may never again run, golfers may never again golf and hunters may never again lay down a target.
But thanks to a new organization dedicated to injured officers, some injured hunting enthusiasts will have opportunities they may have thought were lost.
Known as Hunting for Heroes, the organization provides a hunting camp environment where disabled officers and their families can connect with others in similar circumstances. The camps feature outdoor activities including shooting sports, fishing and archery, as well as land and wildlife management educational experiences.
Hunting for Heroes was founded by a pair of active duty law enforcement officers from Kansas City: Chris Allen, a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, and Chuck Bowles, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper.
Last weekend, the organization’s inaugural event took place in Texas County. Allen and company rented out the entire Lazy L Motel and gave three injured law officers an experience they won’t soon forget, hunting turkey on a 1,000-acre tract made available by local residents Lance and Lynn Coats.
The hunting trio included Lucas Roethlisberger of the St. Louis Police Department (cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger), Paul Clark of the Kansas City Police Department and Mathew Crosby of the Rock Hill Police Department. All three were injured within the last year.
“They were all disabled to the point where they couldn’t return to work,” Allen said. “Guys like them can almost get forgotten about and put on the back burner, so this is our way as fellow cops to give back to them and let them come out and have some fun and help them do some things they can’t do on their own.
“We want to let them know we’re still thinking about them.”
“I think this is pretty amazing,” Crosby said. “It’s something that I enjoyed doing before I was hurt and I was kind of wondering if I was ever going to get to go hunting again. It’s neat that they’re doing this and that I get to meet other officers who are in the same position as me.
“We can have a nice weekend together and forget about our injuries.”
Hunting for Heroes is working on its next event, a dove hunt in the Jefferson City area in September in which at least five injured officers will participate, including some from outside Missouri. Trips to North Carolina and South Dakota are also in the works, and there is discussion with the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce about the possibility of scheduling an annual hunt in Texas County as part of Springfest.
“We’d like to make it kind of a neat tradition,” Allen said.
Allen also said that last weekend’s first-ever hunt will be shown on satellite television, airing on the Pursuit Channel in June or July on an episode of Sovereign Sportsman.
To fund the inaugural hunt, Hunting for Heroes conducted some fundraising activities in the Kansas City area and has reached out for donations wherever possible.
“But being a new organization, this event is going to take up a lot of our budget for the year,” Allen said. “We’re still just learning stuff the hard way and trying to get out and spread our message.”
While police officers have been the sole focus in its fledgling stages, Hunting for Heroes aims to eventually include other public service workers who have sustained on-the-job injuries.
“Our premise is ‘wounded warriors’ or ‘homeland heroes,'” Allen said. “But the guys who started this are all active duty law enforcement, so we started with police so we could get ourselves established. We’d like to take on firefighters and maybe even paramedics, so there are distant goals that we have.
“But our passions are the outdoors and law enforcement, and we put this concept together to give back to these guys who have sacrificed so much. We’ve all been in situations where we had to pull guns or dealt with resistance. We know it could be us tomorrow.”
For more information or to make a donation, call 816-812-7991 orlog onto www.huntingforheroes.org.