Dream hunt: Disabled huntsman takes to woods

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Chandler Breckenridge (from left) and Lee Thornton, both volunteers with the Wood, Waters and Wheels Outdoors organization, rig Chris Thornhill's rifle for the day's deer hunt.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Chandler Breckenridge (from left) and Lee Thornton, both volunteers with the Wood, Waters and Wheels Outdoors organization, rig Chris Thornhill’s rifle for the day’s deer hunt.

Before the accident, Brookhaven native Chris Thornhill enjoyed playing softball and spending time with his kids. One thing he enjoyed more than all the others, though, was hunting.

Then the accident happened. Hunting would take a low place on the totem pole of priorities in Thornhill’s immediate future. Indeed, it would seem like a physical impossibility.

Years ago, while attending his nephew’s birthday celebration, Thornhill would end up suffering a life-changing accident. Thornhill explains what happened.

“After working all day, I went to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. The kids were all jumping into a kind of giant foam pit. It was something that looked like fun.”

That’s when Thornhill made the fateful decision to attempt a flip into the pit. It didn’t turn out the way he anticipated.

“I remember slipping before I attempted the flip. I was halfway through it when I landed in front of the pit on my back.”

In the accident, Thornhill ended up breaking his neck and became paralyzed from the chest down.

The possibility of ever participating and enjoying the sport of hunting, an activity he had come to love, seemed to be a moot point.

Monday – due to the efforts of the Wood, Wheels and Water Outdoors organization and Quinn Jordan of the Lincoln County Civic Center, that impossibility became a reality for Thornhill.

Thornhill was this year’s winner of a hunting trip put on by the organization that provides trips to wounded veterans, the disabled and the elderly. The mission of the non-profit group is to give trip winners a taste of the passion they once had for the outdoors before becoming injured and/or disabled. To Thornhill, it’s exactly what he has been looking forward to for years.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night. I even turned on those boring infomercials to try and fall asleep. It didn’t work. I have been thinking about this trip all night,” said Thornhill Monday.

Early in the day, Thornhill was driven to the Hickory Hills Hunting Preserve with friends and family, an expansive stretch of secluded, wooded area sitting on more than 12,000 acres of property in Hermanville.

The resort is a family run business operated by Sean and Kay Adams. Sean is an experienced hunter, and his resort tends to exemplify this. Everything at the resort is geared toward the hunter and outdoorsman, including a live video feed of the hunting grounds.

By day’s end Monday, Thornhill, family and friends spotted a couple of bucks but came up empty-handed.

Fortunately, the trip is a two-day event, or over whenever the hunt is completed said Kay Adams.

Thornhill will have all day Tuesday to land a buck. And now, he is more familiar with the rifle he will be using which has been rigged to his wheelchair by the volunteers with Wood, Waters and Wheels.

While impossible to know, Jordan believes today is the lucky day to land a buck.

“I have a good feeling about today. Now that Chris is familiar with how the shooting apparatus works and has shot the gun, I think things are going to go our way,” said Jordan.

“If anyone deserves this trip, it is Chris. He is one of the most gracious persons I know. Over the years, he has seen others go on similar trips. He is the last one that would put himself in front of anyone else. But it was something I had to do,” Jordan continued.

To Thornhill, the trip represents a dream that has come to fruition.

“I feel extremely blessed. I want to thank everyone for putting this on for me,” said Thornhill.