Noel Dillard needs help to expand opportunities for more disabled people to do something most take for granted - go fishing.
HandiCAPABLE Guide Service, with the help of American Legion Post 68 in Kuttawa, will hold an auction and yard sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 5 at the Lee Jones Convention Center in Eddyville.
The Grand Rivers-based non-profit, staffed completely by volunteers, provides wounded warriors and other people with disabilities with outdoor recreation, such as hunting and fishing, through the use of adaptive equipment.
Dillard, handiCAPABLE co-founder, said the organization works with people's abilities - not their disabilities - and doesn't charge for its services.
HandiCAPABLE is able to take wheelchair-bound clients fishing by using a skimmer boat that has a drop-down bow, which allows clients to board the boat without having to be lifted.
The yard sale and auction is being held to raise money to buy a pontoon boat. The boat the organization currently uses for fishing trips can hold two wheelchairs, and Dillard said a new pontoon boat would enable the non-profit to take more people fishing at one time, and to have multiple groups out at the same time.
Dillard founded handiCAPABLE in 1991 with Marcus Gough, a high school classmate of Dillard's daughter. Dillard was a hunting and fishing guide, and took Gough, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hunting and fishing.
During Gough's senior year of high school, Dillard asked him what he wanted to do after he graduated.
"He said, well, he didn't really know, he'd like to be a hunting and fishing guide, but he thought he couldn't," Dillard said.
Dillard told Gough he would help him create a hunting and fishing guide service if Gough would go to college first. After a moment of thought, Dillard said, Gough replied that he didn't just want to create a hunting and fishing guide service, but a guide service for the handicapped.
"I said, 'Well that's good. I don't have a problem with that, but I don't know anything about disabilities except for you,' " Dillard remembered. "And he kind of dropped his head and thought for a minute.
"And he was kind of grinning, and he looked at me and said 'You don't know?' he said, 'I'm going to go through all phases of disabilities and I can teach you everything you need to know, and after I'm gone you can still help people."
Dillard said the life expectancy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy is 21 years. Gough died in 1996.
"But here it is in 2014, and I'm still going strong," Dillard said about handiCAPABLE's mission.
Dillard said buying the pontoon boat would create the opportunity for his clients to participate in a sport the organization hasn't been able to offer yet: bow fishing. The skimmer he currently uses is too low in the water to allow for bow fishing, Dillard explained.
"This is another great avenue that we need to open up to people with disabilities," Dillard said, "but the first thing I have to do is raise enough money to buy a new pontoon boat and get it modified for people with disabilities."
Dillard said a new pontoon boat would probably cost $30,000, including the costs of necessary modifications.
"There's a lot of other things that you have to consider," American Legion Post 68 member Tom Bruzan added. "His insurance is tremendous because, you know, taking handicapped people out, he's responsible for them."
Post 68 is accepting donations of new and gently used items from individuals and businesses to be sold in the yard sale or in the auction.
"We're just a group of veterans that try to give back to the communities that we live in," Bruzan said. "and this man's (Dillard) been doing this for 20 years."
Dillard said the post is using its contacts to help handiCAPABLE with the fundraiser, and people who have items to donate for the yard sale and auction can call Bruzan at 219-765-3011.
Dillard said monetary donations will be accepted as well. Checks must be made out to handiCAPABLE Guide Service and sent to P.O. Box 421, Grand Rivers, KY 42045-0421.
For more information about handiCAPABLE, call Dillard at 270-559-6876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.
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