PARKVILLE, Md (WMAR) — It’s something many of us take for granted: the ability to do our favorite hobbies without any access barriers. A nonprofit is working to give that freedom back to our nation’s disabled veterans.
“Put in a chair, I thought life was over, I want people to realize life’s just begun,” said veteran John Pepe.
Pepe, who served in the Navy during the Gulf War, has been paralyzed for over 10 years because of a spinal cord infection.
He said at first, it was a huge struggle.
“Once I was put in the chair, I was like ‘Man, this sucks’,” said Pepe. “Up until recently, I basically stayed at home.”
But what changed, he said, is his involvement with the colonial chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America. It’s a national nonprofit that works as advocates for disabled vets, providing training and career services, and rehab and support through sports and recreation.
For the last few years, Pepe was attended, and won trophies at, the Keith Lewis Annual Memorial Trap Shoot hosted by the Carney Rod and Gun Club in Parkville.
It has served as therapy and stress relief for him, helping him cope and start enjoying life again.
“You now feel like you’re a productive member of society and it gives you a little hope,” said Pepe.
“The quality of life, the hope it gives them… that’s what really made us get into it and our membership wrapped our arms around it and away it went,” said Greg Greb, president of the gun club.
But Greb said between COVID and an ammunition shortage, the event’s growth has become stagnant.
“You can’t get shells so people are saving the shells they do have for the major competitions. That’s a problem,” said Greb. “It’s a shame because it’s great organization.”
He’s already reached out to his suppliers to make sure they are stocked up for the event and hopes more people will come out to support. He’ll donate all the funds from the weekend to the PVA.
The shoot is June 4-5. Email email@example.com for registration information.