A hunter with Down syndrome

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No limit on memories; Hunting enriches the life of girl with Down’s Syndrome

hunter

Contributed Photo
Megan Smith poses with the head of an elk that she killed during a recent hunting trip to Oregon. Megan was born with Down’s Syndrome, but that hasn’t stopped her from indulging in her passion for hunting. Her hunting trip was made possible by Kidz Outdoors.

Megan Smith was succinct in her explanation of how she got her elk.

“I put the hammer down,” she said. “He didn’t go anywhere.”

Like a lot of Arkansas teenagers, Megan has gotten to be an avid hunter who can’t wait to get outdoors and participate in the sport. The recent hunting trip to Oregon, where she bagged her elk, produced a head to be mounted, meat for her family’s table and plenty of memories to last a lifetime.

Megan, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Bruno-Pyatt, does have certain limitations to overcome. She was born with Down’s Syndrome and has other physical problems, such as a heart murmur.

Megan, though, doesn’t let those things keep her from her passion for hunting.

In fact, Megan’s grandfather, Terry, said that hunting has helped her immensely in school and at home.

“Megan is so hyper that she couldn’t stand still,” Terry said. “Since she started hunting, she has learned she has to be still. She’s a different kid when she’s hunting. She sits still. Utilizing hunting keeps her focused.”

Megan’s Oregon trip, as well as others, have been made possible through “Kidz Outdoors,” a non-profit organization that, in addition to raising money for research on childhood diseases, provides opportunities for young hunters who have disabilities. The North Central Arkansas chapter of Kidz Outdoors is located in Gilbert.

“Now, imagine if your son or daughter had limited time left,” the organization’s web site said, “limited mobility or your funds were stretched so tight on hospital bills that your child would maybe never get the chance to feel that rush, see an animal in the wild or complete a dream? That’s what we here at Kidz Outdoors strive to amend.”

Kidz Outdoors, Terry explained, makes it possible for even paraplegics and blind children to enjoy hunting.

“We’ve met some fantastic families,” Terry said. “Every kid has some sort of disability, but when we’re together, they’re all alike.”

Megan makes regular visits to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where she sees a geneticist. The hospital, Terry said, has even done a study of Megan’s condition. All the doctors know her by name. Because of her Down’s Syndrome, Megan will not get adult teeth once her baby teeth fall out. The hospital is currently working on dental plates for her.

In addition to the help provided by Kidz Outdoors, Megan has gotten the sponsorship of many people in the area.

Megan had previously gone on a hunt to Sweetwater, Texas, where she got a  pig.

To prepare for her trip to Oregon, Megan visited Bass Pro. The managers there immediately took Megan under their wings and gave her VIP status, which included a 40-percent discount.

According to Terry, his granddaughter loves animals, but she also understands the philosophy of hunting and enjoys providing meat for her family. Megan has one particular rule when hunting, though. She never shoots female animals, Terry said.

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