Julie's Archers for Autism

By Jeremy Oster, Hononegah Archery Inc.

II would like to tell you a story that begins with a teenage girl who has Autism and struggles each day to try and fit in at her middle school. Unlike most girls, Julie doesn't have any friends that call her up after school to come over and play. Julie has never had classmates reply to her invitations to her birthday party; it's always just family for cake and presents. Julie even tries riding the normal school bus instead of the special needs school bus to try and fit in, but most of the time she still gets teased for her Autism and comes home with tears. Dad wipes them away while explaining that kids are mean, and that she really is a special little girl.

The only time Julie feels equal to her peers is on an archery range. Teaching Julie how to shoot a bow at 8-years-old was the inspiration for my becoming a USA Archery Level III Junior Olympic Coach and founding Hononegah Archery Inc. Now at 13-years-old, Julie can hit a lifesaver with an arrow at 10 meters using a bow that has no sights!

Julie's Archers for Autism

Archery Paves the Way to Socialization for Child with Autism

When I started teaching archery classes 5 years ago, something else happened. Julie finally had something in common with mainstream kids who came to our classes. For the first time ever, Julie was having fun and spending time with other kids without being picked on for being different! Julie started to meet new friends who also have special needs, like Daniel, an 8-year-old boy who held his bow with his prosthetic arm.

We learned a lot from Daniel. His parents taught us that if kids with prosthetics are forced to use them by parents, they often tend to throw their prosthetics away when they turn 18. Since parents aren't forcing prosthetic use anymore, throwing them away diminishes quality of life for the student. So Daniel's parents look to activities like archery to give him encouragement to use his arm. Daniel took archery classes with us for many months and he was the first recipient of a Hononegah Archery Lesson Scholarship for students with disabilities.

Julie's Archers for Autism

Today we have adults like Andrew in our classes who also have special needs. Andrew is in his 40s and participates in softball and bowling for Special Olympics. Andrew was our first adult to be awarded a Hononegah Archery Lesson Scholarship for adults with disabilities!

Archer Instructs from his "Tank" Track Chair (ATV Wheelchair)

Christopher Somers is our newest Board Member and our Wheelchair Archery Coordinator. Chris was paralyzed in a car accident in 2001. He looks forward to helping students who use wheelchairs get outside and enjoy archery and nature. We hope to provide a new opportunity for recreation to those with mobility disabilities through archery.

Julie's Archers for Autism

I was able to find a donor for Chris to receive a Track Chair (ATV Wheelchair) that looks similar to a cross between a wheelchair and a tank! Chris teaches at our archery classes with the "tank." Hononegah Archery is in talks with another organization and hoping to receive a grant so we may host other Track Chairs. They won't just be for archery; rather, people with disabilities would borrow a "tank" for the day to go hunting, fishing or even just for a day hike in the woods with their grand kids! If we are successful, we will be the first organization in Illinois to host one for public use!

Where Can you Hit a Bullseye Locally?

Hononegah Archery teaches weekly archery classes in Rockton, IL and we travel with our mobile archery range to other cities for events and parties. We also spread longbow archery and history education with the public when we travel to Indian Settler Rendezvous dressed as Hononegah Indians and set up our 3D animal target longbow range. Additionally, we dress as Robin Hood and set our longbow range up at Renaissance Faires. We try and do whatever it takes to provide quality entertainment and share archery with the public.

Julie's Archers for Autism

Julie's Archers for Autism is Coming in July

On July 14, 2018 from 2 - 10 pm, we are hosting the 1st Annual "Julie's Archers for Autism Tournament and Fundraiser" benefiting the University of Wisconsin Waisman Center Autism Research Department and Hartley Labs. My Julie participated in three different research programs with the Waisman Center. When Hononegah Archery obtained our non-profit status last November, I asked my board to vote the Waisman Center as our primary cause to support!

There will be all kinds of conservation and youth sports information booths for the public to visit at our July 14th event, from an Army recruiting booth, to the WI DNR Director of Special Needs Access to Wisconsin Parks. We also plan on a huge kid-focused area including a bounce house, face painting, a coloring station, service dogs and even three Track Chairs for kids and adults with disabilities to try out with Chris.

Julie's Archers for Autism

From 2 - 4 pm, the event will be open ONLY for kids and adults with special needs and their families so that sensory-sensitive kids are able to visit us with less activity. The plan is to get school aides and nurses to volunteer that day so that every family knows if they find a person in a blue tie-dyed t-shirt with our Hononegah Archery logo, that person has special training to help with any loved-one's disability at the event regardless of severity!

We hope you can join us and be a part of "Julie's Archers for Autism." This should truly be an extraordinary event! While many organizations raise money for Autism advocacy, the money that we are raising directly funds one of the six Autism research programs in the USA!

We are still looking for sponsors, volunteers and nurse volunteers. Click here if you would like to sponsor or volunteer. Thank you for your consideration!

About the Author:

Coach Jeremy Oster is the Founder of Hononegah Archery Inc., a 501c3 non-profit that teaches archery to students and adults and specializes teaching those with disabilities. Coach Oster is a USA Archery Level III (NTS) Junior Olympic Coach. Coach Oster is also a trainer for the National Archery in the Schools program and Scholastic 3D Archery and can license school teachers for co-ed competitive archery teams grades 3 -12. Coach Oster's personal and company mission include bringing these school teams to the IL / WI state-line area to allow students with disabilities to compete from the same starting line as mainstream peers on an athletic team where they can earn college scholarship money. Youth archery empowers women, students with disabilities and non-traditional athletes.

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