Modified hunting system helps boy get his first dollar

INDIANA, Pa. (AP) – Lucas McCormick, 11, didn’t want to get out of bed when his mother, Kayla McCormick, woke him up on the first day of gun season in late November.

Like most young hunters, this Marion Center sixth grader was stuck between determining to shoot his first buck and wanting to sleep on a Sunday. In the end, Lucas chose to bundle up in the orange and head out into the snowy woods with his father, Dan McCormick.

“He was laughing as I dressed him,” Kayla recalls. “He was half asleep and I kept asking him, ‘Are you tired?’ He couldn’t stop laughing, but he couldn’t even keep his eyes open.

It turned out to be the right decision and a day the McCormick family will cherish forever.

When Lucas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, McCormick’s parents decided they would do everything possible to ensure that Lucas’s disability never interfered with his happiness.

Part of that happiness was finding a way to include Lucas in the family hunting tradition. The McCormicks have resided at Home and have hunted for generations. It is a rite of passage and a passion for the eldest of three McCormick sons.

They started by tying a lace to the trigger of a .243 caliber rifle and telling Lucas when to shoot. It was a sufficient success, allowing Lucas to pull his first doe at 8 years old.

But the boy couldn’t see the deer when he pulled the trigger, so they had to find something better.

In 2020, the family took a trip to Wisconsin, where Lucas was able to use a motorized hunting system designed specifically for people with disabilities. However, these rigs can cost thousands of dollars for basic models, which is not an easy expense to spare when raising three young children.

Dan McCormick was inspired. He studied the platform and realized, with some effort, that he could implement something similar with a much more manageable budget.

A family friend used a 3D printer to create some of the more expensive parts and replaced others. The system is a mishmash of ingenuity with door lock actuators and phone mounts among a range of other equipment to develop a unique and personal platform.

It was a year-long trial and error process and a brief hiatus for Dan to recover from a liver transplant, but he got it.

Lucas was so excited to use the system that he skipped the archery season altogether. He wanted to wait and use his new platform to get his first dollar.

It was worth the wait.

Dan and Lucas walked 400 yards to their elevated tree, where the son quickly fell asleep again before his father elbowed him up when the male appeared about 90 yards away.

Lucas saw the money in a rifle-mounted phone screen, told his dad how to adjust the tripod through a wave of dizziness and laughter, then pressed a button to shoot.

“He’s getting really happy and giggling so you have to shut him up because he’s so excited,” Kayla said. “But this time he got to see the deer because there is a screen and it got him even more excited. He couldn’t see the deer before. He hit the button and just screamed. You couldn’t hear anything else. He was so happy.

Kayla posted the photos of Lucas with her money on her own Facebook page, as she has done with every one of her son’s dollars for years. A friend urged her to share the photos on the PA Trophy Takers page, where they topped more than 3 million views, 12,000 likes, 2,600 comments and 22,000 shares.

The outpouring of community support was almost overwhelming for the McCormick family, who didn’t expect their story to go this far.

“I’m happy that he can touch the hearts of so many people with just his smile,” Kayla said. “I didn’t think it was going to explode. It’s so nice to hear people’s stories and have all these people contact me for Lucas. It was unreal.

Several businesses across the country have reached out, providing the family with hunting, taxidermy and processing trips. Swarthout’s Skull Works in Roaring Branch is riding the money for free for Lucas with the promise of doing the same if he can take another in the next archery season.

Through it all, Dan and Kayla are focused on doing whatever they can to continue making Lucas’ dreams come true.

“He’s a typical kid,” Kayla said. “He tells me he wants to do these things that all kids want to do, and, as a parent, you think, ‘We’re going to get there.’ He doesn’t know the difference. He always grew up with a disability. If you are a parent and you love your child, you are going to do everything you can to make it happen.

“Seeing how happy this makes him really makes us want to do more for him.… A lot of his doctors have told us that he’s not going to talk, that he’s not going to walk, that he’s not going. not at x, y and z; but he did it all.

For Kayla and Dan McCormick, being parents means clearing a 400-yard path and building a ramp to the tree stand to make sure Lucas can make an easier trip to the woods. That means spending a year building specially designed rigs for his rifle and then his crossbow to ensure he can fully participate in a family tradition.

And that means learning how to edit videos to help Lucas achieve his dreams of becoming a professional YouTube gamer.

“We do it just because we love them,” Kayla said.


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