Group also to include Wounded Warriors in activities

An area nonprofit group who aims to get youth involved in outdoor activities is also trying to include a different group of individuals to experience the great outdoors this year.

Now in its fifth year, the K.N.A.P.S. (Kids Need a Place to Start) program is continuing its goal of helping disabled or single-parent children ages 8-15 to take part in outdoor and recreational activities, like hunting. K.N.A.P.S. was founded by Dennis Jasper, who is also the president of organization.

This past weekend, eight area children went hunting with the group at the Walnut Glen Farm property located in northwestern Phelps County.

Taking part in the hunting experience this year were Tony Rossy, Matthew Holcolm, Jacob Faulkner and Dakota Gibson, all of Rolla, Ethan Rutledge, Logan Hillandsworth and Luke Akins, all of Belle, and Hunter Peak, of Bland.

They all went hunting during the first weekend allowed for youth deer hunting in Missouri, Nov. 3-4.

Greg Long, vice president of K.N.A.P.S., said all eight kids had success hunting.

About four more children will be chosen for the next youth hunting weekend in the state, Dec. 29-30, he said.

New this year, the group will take out four wounded combat veterans for hunting Nov. 17-20 through the Wounded Warrior project.

Long said the four veterans, who have suffered some type of injury, were chosen with the help of staff at Fort Leonard Wood.

Long said Jasper was able to get a hold of a contact with the Wounded Warrior project to “make it happen.” Long, who served in the Marine Corps, said it is nice to help these veterans.

Long said the idea for K.N.A.P.S. came about after he and Jasper were discussing how they could help children in single-parent homes who don’t get a chance to get out into the woods.

K.N.A.P.S. chooses children by putting out fliers to get the word out and has the applicants write essays about why they want to hunt.

Members of K.N.A.P.S. read through the essays and talk with the children and parent.

“We sit down and get to know them,” Long said, noting that because some of the children chosen have never shot before, K.N.A.P.S. members teach them before they go hunting.

“They’re all smiles. They get super excited,” Long said of their experiences.

During the hunts, the children, along with K.N.A.P.S. members Joe Stroudman, Isaac Emfinger, Scott Schwab and Nathan Deluca, who help with the hunt, sit in deer blinds.

The blinds are accessible for children who are wheelchair-bound or who have a disability.

Parents also are welcome to come along on the hunts. “The parents get as excited as the kids do,” Long said.

Raffles and donations help pay for the children’s hunting experiences, Long said. To help transport the veterans this year, Cowtown USA and Stahlman Powersports are both donating ATVs.