LILLEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some people are born with a disability and for others, it comes unexpectedly. In either case, loss of direction or purpose, decrease in self-esteem and the challenges of everyday life can put people with disabilities at a higher risk for depression.
Carson Nyenhuis of Grandville found himself in this unexpected situation after a motorcycle crash five years ago.
“I’m paralyzed from the chest down from the accident,” Nyenhuis said. “During my recovery and stuff, I went through some bad depression and had some buddies take me back out in the woods and it really revitalized my spirit and my everything.”
That’s when he realized he loved to help people and wanted to find a way to give others the same opportunity and experience that he had. While there are some programs available, he said people don’t always have proper accommodations or the special equipment needed.
Cost and lack of knowledge also add to the many barriers that make an activity like hunting seem impossible.
“There’s a lot of paralyzed and just disabled in general, all sorts of disabilities that can’t get back out in the woods. We wanted to give them that opportunity and we think it’s kind of a life-changing event that they can go through,” he said.
Nyenhuis launched the nonprofit Hunt 2 Heal in 2019 with a mission to provide a safe and comfortable environment where people who have been deprived of enjoying the great outdoors can take part in those experiences at no cost and with no worries.
He connected with Kim Monks early in 2020, and she became the executive director.
“I started working with them in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit. We had all the planning going for the first three months and then everything shut down. We were luckily able to start construction on the lodge in April anyways, by everything’s taking a little bit longer,” Monks said.
In the meantime, they worked to plan fundraisers to help fund the program, which is available at no cost to participants. They also had an accessible lodge built on the property with hotel-style rooms, rolling showers and bathrooms. There are also trails throughout the property and the hunting blinds are all roll-in as well so they can be accessed by any vehicle going down the trails.
“A lot of the people that we’ve talked to with disability, the biggest challenge they have with getting outdoors is having that comfort zone of knowing where they go is going to be able to accommodate them. So that’s what we’ll be able to provide for them is just that worry-free experience knowing they’re coming to a place that gets them,” Monks said.
H2H is open to anyone with any disability that prevents them from getting out in the woods on their own. Nyenhuis said that’s based on each individual’s personal judgment.
“What they do is they fill out an application on our website and fill out as much information on there and then I basically call them we do an interview. We try to get as much in-depth information as what the situation they’re going through, what they need, what struggles they have, all that and then that way, we can accommodate them correctly at the lodge and set them up with the right guests as well.”
A grand opening celebration will be taking place on Thursday, Aug. 19 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 2402 W. 15 Mile Rd in Lilley Township, near Bitely.
The first hunt experiences will take place in fall 2021. H2H consists of a full weekend, Friday through Sunday, of hunting, meals, bonfires and other fun activities.
You can apply here for a fall 2021 Deer Hunting Weekend Get Away. Applications will be accepted until July 31.