Thanks Bob & Tom for being a valuable part of Outdoor Buddies!
Just a quick note to recognize Bob Steiner (fisherman) and Tom Sweezey (holding bass) during the Annual Outdoor Buddies Family Day Picnic held June 9th. Outdoor Buddies, designed to assist mobility-impaired outdoorsmen and women, as well as disadvantaged youth, has a long history of coming to Swift Ponds and we are proud to continue this tradition. For more info about Outdoor buddies, click here.
Thanks Bob & Tom for being a valuable part of Outdoor Buddies!
[This article, by Denver Post Outdoors Editor Charlie Meyers, was originally published in the Denver Post on February 6, 2007. Larry Sanford (left, above) has been organizing the successful Outdoor Buddies goose hunts at Swift Ponds for years. Bret Harlan, with his goose, is pictured on the right.]
When 13,000 volts coursed through Larry Sanford's body during a pipeline drilling project gone terribly wrong, he awoke to find himself missing an arm, all of the muscles in his chest and various other body parts.
Brett Harlan's bones have betrayed him since birth.
Apart from the interesting coincidence that both these events occurred in Louisiana, these men share another link that extends beyond the often blurry bounds of disability.
Now, more than a thousand miles away, they're connected by a very Colorado organization called Outdoor Buddies and a glowing passion for all the activities it embraces.
On a frigid morning last week suitable for free-roaming polar bears, Sanford and Harlan shared a goose blind west of Windsor, one of those remarkable outings for which the organization is known.
Conceived in 1984 by the late Sid Sellers, a hunter safety instructor, and Sam Andrews of Craig Hospital, the organization has evolved as the national model for outdoor participation by the mobility disabled.
The group presently involves some 275 handicapped hunters and fishermen, many of them armed service veterans, in a program that captivates all who touch it.
Julie Swezey, who operates Indian Brook Kennels in Wellington, remembers her reaction when her husband volunteered to help with an Outdoor Buddies antelope hunt.
"I knew immediately I wanted to do something with the organization," said Swezey, now a board member.
Sanford began years ago as a participant and now acts as a facilitator.
"It's amazing what people can do when they're given the opportunity, when they can overcome their inhibitions," said Sanford, who five years ago joined the board.
Sanford, one of those irrepressible individuals who presumably might smile through a shark attack, now serves as a hunt organizer, a walking, or hobbling, inspiration to everyone he meets.
"The accident literally cost me an arm and a leg - or at least part of my foot," he joked while bagging a limit of geese, using a modified stock that helps make him a deadeye with one hand.
Outdoor participation, Sanford said, is the ultimate in freedom and a way to regain a measure of dignity that may have been stolen by disability.
"When someone bags an elk, he feels a sense of providing for his family," Sanford, 45, describes the sense of empowerment. "Every time you take a package of meat from the freezer, you feel you're helping your family."
Outdoor Buddies also assists in various small game hunts, as well as fishing on both lakes and streams. Elk hunting remains a popular part of the program, with some 50 outings last season on private property and an approximate 80 percent success rate.
"Born for the outdoors," Harlan, 48, has bagged elk in two of the past three years. He says Outdoor Buddies has "made all the difference" in a difficult life whose benchmarks include losing a leg at age 5 and a bone collapse in the other 10 years ago. A series of spinal fusions compounded his need for assistance. He'll have yet another surgery in two weeks.
Asked what Outdoor Buddies means to him, Harlan offered a direct answer: "My life, in all honesty."
When a lone goose answered Sanford's call and flew toward the decoys, Harlan quickly hoisted his gun and dropped it with a single shot.
For a moment, that troubled life was very good again.
Charlie Meyers can be reached at 303-954-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
My heart was heavy when I heard the news that Sid Sellers had died. I find comfort and I know that Sid was warmly greeted in heaven by Dad and they are now watching with great interest as the legacies of Swift Ponds and Outdoor Buddies live on...
Respectfully, Chase Swift
Reprinted from the Rocky Mountain News (August 9th) by reporter Ed Dentry.
August 9, 2006
When Sid Sellers came calling, you listened. Nearly always, the subject would be Outdoor Buddies, the nonprofit ship he launched for handicapped Colorado hunters and anglers in 1984.
Outdoor Buddies needed volunteers, donations. It needed another story in the newspaper because its elk hunters - mobility-impaired though they might be - had just put the average nimrod to shame again in the success department.
Sellers would charm and chat, then quickly get to the point. A tall, vigorous man, he would persuade with such talent that you would forget to think of it as goading.
"He was a warrior. He was tenacious, but it never was for Sid," said Bruce McCloskey, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who dealt with Sellers on many issues important to sportsmen and wildlife.
Sidney H. Sellers died Saturday, a month short of his 89th birthday, of complications from a fall he took at his driveway in Denver on July 17. He was born Sept. 4, 1917, in Tarrytown, N.Y., and lived in Baltimore before moving to Colorado in 1953 with his wife, Marion, and two daughters.
A lifelong hunter and angler, Sellers accelerated his wildlife-related public service after retiring as a mechanical engineer. He helped develop Colorado's hunter education program and was a volunteer hunter safety instructor for more than 40 years.
"He loved everything about the outdoors. That's one of the reasons we moved to Colorado," said daughter Carolyn "Charlie" Gallagher, 65, who went boating, fishing and crabbing with the family on the Chesapeake Bay before they came to Colorado.
Sellers enjoyed hunting and fishing and, in his earlier years, showing horses. He developed a passion for bear hunting, which took him to Alaska.
But he never hunted when he directed handicapped hunters into the field on carefully planned forays for elk, geese or turkeys. He once told an outdoors writer he preferred to hunt dangerous game, which could hunt him.
"That's my dad," Gallagher said.
She said he also was fond of word play, bantering and doing crossword puzzles: "He trained me on being a smart-aleck," she said.
Sellers is best remembered as the founder of Outdoor Buddies, which has about 300 "Handi-Buddy" participants, who pay no dues and go on hunting and fishing outings with "Able-Buddy" helpers.
The group started in 1984, when Sellers joined forces with Sam Andrews, recreational manager for Craig Hospital, to get mobility-impaired sportsmen back in the field. It has since inspired similar organizations in 37 other states.
Sellers retired as president of Outdoor Buddies in 2004, at 86, but he stayed on as chairman of the board.
Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis said she and Sellers became friends in 1995, when she was a senator from Pueblo and Sellers would show up at senate committee meetings to ask "for a little seed money" for Outdoor Buddies.
"I always found it to be a very inspiring story and I loved his enthusiasm," Dennis said.
She said Sellers kept in touch.
"He gave me his coat made from the first deer he ever shot as a kid," she said. "It must have meant a lot to him."
Sellers frequently was honored for his service. In 2001, he was chosen Outstanding Wildlife Citizen by the Western Fish and Wildlife Associations. In 2005, KMGH-Channel 7 gave him its Everyday Hero award.
In the field, Sellers was known as a firm taskmaster who kept his participants and assistants in tow, always emphasizing ethical, safe hunting conduct.
"He could be cantankerous," said Dwaine Robey, current president of Outdoor Buddies who remembers when Sellers nixed a blind man's assisted elk hunt in 2004 because "he needs a lot of practice."
"We knew the consequences of overruling Sid," Robey said.
So he gave the man the bad news. Then he and others went to work to find an electronic aid, which allowed the man to practice and meet Sellers' strict standards.
"He got his elk last year," Robey said. "Sid was right."
Sellers is succeeded by his wife, Marion, and daughter Carolyn Gallagher, both of Denver; daughter Bobbie Wheeler, 62, of Chugiak, Alaska; and grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Division of Wildlife's hunter education building, 6060 Broadway. Donations can be made to students pursuing a career in wildlife management, at The Sid and Marion Sellers Scholarship Fund, Outdoor Buddies Inc., P.O. Box 370283, Denver, CO 80237-0283.
Chase Swift created this website to keep the history of Swift Ponds alive.