Kountze camp treats disabled vets to free hunt on opening weekend

Kountze camp treats disabled vets to free hunt on opening weekend

Indian Springs Special Needs Camp hosted an opening weekend deer hunt for disabled veterans and their caregivers Saturday, Nov. 1 – Sunday, Nov. 2, at the Indian Springs Campground in Kountze. The nonprofit, with the help of many volunteers, has been hosting a free hunting program for disabled veterans since 1998 as a way of giving back to men and women who unselfishly served in the armed forces protecting America’s freedoms, said Ronnie Stockholm, owner of the camp.

“A lot of the veterans we see coming back now are disabled in wheelchairs,” Stockholm said. “They don’t have the opportunity to get back into the same situation of normalcy as when they left to go to war. This weekend, we had four quadriplegics out and seven paraplegics. We had two full quadriplegics. That means they operated their wheelchairs by their tongues and blow tubes. It’s very humbling. This is an opportunity to host them. We’re going to help them enjoy what they used to enjoy.”

Forty-four-year-old Magnet, Texas resident Frank Ellis, a board member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Texas Chapter, said the service that Stockholm’s camp provides disabled vets is exactly what they need to remain happy and active following their injuries.

“When you have a land owner and individual like Ronnie who goes that extra step to make sure everything in this place is accessible to us, it makes it a lot easier to plan these events,” said Ellis, who is a paralyzed Navy veteran, himself. “What he has created there is exactly what we look for to set up outings for our individuals. To all of us, it means we are able to get out and enjoy things we love doing. It gives us a release from the confinement that a lot of us feel.”

With the help of Kountze ISD vocational students, the Indian Springs built handicap accessible blinds for the veterans’ hunts.

Several local businesses donated food and equipment, as well.

“Market Basket has always pitched in. Brookshire Brothers in Kountze has always pitched in,” Stockholm said. “We’ve always had help with side-by-side four-wheelers, where you can put a paraplegic in the seat beside you, tie his wheelchair to the back and take him out to the stand, whether they give us a good discount or loan them to us for free. This year, Dale Williford loaned us two golf carts, and Texas Building Materials loaned us two UTVs. Shoppa’s loaned us a John Deere UTV. With that plus what we have, that was sufficient to take these folks out to the stands.”

Quality Mat, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 292, Holtzclaw Foundation, YMBL, Citizens Bank and Parker Lumber Co. also donated to hunts.

Stockholm has several volunteers who help with the cooking and act as spotters in the stands with the vets as well.

“Some of them have been with me for well over 10 to 15 years,” he said. “We have a great group of folks that do this, and they do this on their own time and sometimes use their own money to make repairs.”

“I was so impressed. It was such a great thing. It is just great to know that people in our area do this and try to provide an outing for our veterans,” said first-year volunteer La Rue Rougeau, operations manager at Jefferson County Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center.

Last year, the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument association honored Indian Springs when the traveling exhibit came to the Edison Plaza in Beaumont.

“They had found out about us and what we do for the veterans and they honored our camp,” he said. “That gave us publicity that we’ve never sought before and put us in a limelight. Now people want to donate. We got enough donations last year to build a new American Disability Act accessible bathhouse with showers and restroom facilities.”

The next goal of the group was to raise funds to build ADA accessible cabins, Stockholm said.

“We’ve always had to put them up in motels that aren’t ADA accessible,” he said.

Stockholm said that the group’s prayers were answered when Boy Scout Collin Cornwell agreed to take on the task as his Eagle Scout project.

“He’s going to build some ADA ramps to a couple of our cabins,” Stockholm said.

The group would now like to build new ADA accessible family-size cabins, however, he said.

“That way these guys can come out with their families because most of them enjoy sitting around a campfire at night not having to go back or wanting to go back to a motel — just staying right here at the camp. We’re now directing our attention to getting funding to build the new cabins. Nothing elaborate. Just something with small kitchenettes.”

Stockholm said each cabin would cost between $15,000-20,000, and he would like to build four.

The camp was built in 1987 as a way to show underprivileged and inner city kids what Mother Nature has to offer, the Indian Springs Camp website states.

“We give them an all-new prospective on life by developing goals around nature-related activities,” Stockholm said. “We, along with some of the Big Thicket Preserve park rangers, offer several outdoor programs that hopefully will impact their lives in future development.”

In 1998, the camp expanded its curriculum to include a more challenging program with both disabled children and disabled veterans. With the assistance of Texas Parks & Wildlife, it began to host a hunting program.

For more information about Indian Springs Special Needs Camp, visit www.indianspringscamp.net or call (409) 246-2508.