For nearly two decades, Kerry Terrell and Jason Beard have been heading out before the sun rises to stake out a prime turkey hunting spot.
But, there was a time in Beard’s life when he wondered if he’d still be able to pursue his passion. Beard’s injuries from a diving accident fractured his vertebrae, making him a quadriplegic.
Terrell, a crane operator at Georgia Ports Authority, recalls the first time he heard about the man who would become one of his best friends. Terrell, an award-winning turkey caller, was participating in a competition when he was asked to help a wheelchair-bound man call in a turkey.
Although the initial hunt presented some challenges, Terrell said seeing the pure joy on Beard’s face made the extra effort worthwhile.
“Just seeing his reaction [after a successful hunt], I knew I had to figure out a way to take him on my own,” Terrell said.
So, Terrell began driving an hour to pick up his new hunting partner and get him ready for the day, then driving another hour to their hunting location and later driving Beard home. Over the years, the partners have developed strategies to overcome any physical obstacles.
For example, Beard has a specially designed wheelchair with a hunting gun attached. He uses a joystick to maneuver the gun left and right and a special straw to shoot.
“From his unselfish passion for the outdoors, and the love for a friend, KT is giving physically challenged individuals the experience of a lifetime,” Beard said. “You just don’t stumble on a friend like that.”
It was his friendship with “KT” that inspired Beard to create the KT Team, a nonprofit organization aiming to help those with physical challenges participate in outdoor activities.
Terrell was humbled upon learning Beard named the group after him.
“It’s not about me, I just met a guy who likes to hunt and be outdoors as much as me, and he literally couldn’t go without somebody, so we became friends,” Terrell said. “But, Jason said ‘you’ve inspired me to do this, so we can share this experience with other folks.’”
Terrell said he’s seen people’s lives change when they get in the woods for the first time after an accident.
“They didn’t realize they could still do this [after their injuries],” Terrell said. “From both of our passions for turkey hunting, we’ve literally built a team together.”
Since launching KT Team, several other volunteers have stepped up to make the hunts a reality. This past year, eight physically challenged individuals were able to participate in hunts.
The group works with Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta to help recently injured individuals enjoy the outdoors. KT Team was also recently connected with a child with terminal cancer.
Terrell recalls seeing a 74-year-old hunter cry when he harvested his first turkey ever. This past fall, the team also headed up successful dove and deer hunts. One hunter got his first deer since his accident more than 25 years ago.
Terrell and Beard hope that the KT Team hunts will inspire participants to live out all their personal passions in life.
The group is currently leasing property to facilitate the hunts, but Beard hopes to raise enough money to purchase their own land. Beard’s dream is to open a handicap-accessible KT Team lodge to host camps.
“That’s my dream too,” Terrell said. “I’ve just got to get the faith Jason has in seeing this become a reality.”
For more on the KT Team, visit thektteam.org or the KT Team Facebook page.