John Allen at a the Daisy National Air Rifle Championship
I'm going to be quite honest. I almost didn't go. Really, I didn't want to go. Before I explain what I'm talking about, however, let me go back to the beginning.
Most of you know that John Allen shoots air rifle competitively. His shooting "career" began when he was in third grade. We had been looking for a sport that John Allen would excel in for a few years. When he was 15 months old, John Allen was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer. By God's grace, the doctors were able to remove the tumor, but had to also remove his left eye.
Being blind in one eye is difficult for a child who wants to play sports. They have no depth perception so hitting a ball with a bat or trying to kick a ball with a foot can be challenging. Try closing one eye and trying to touch the tips of your two pointer fingers together in front of your face and you'll see what I mean. We signed him up for t-ball and he did ok because the ball was stationary. When we tried coaches pitch (where a machine pitches the ball to the batter) things were a little different. He couldn't hit the ball if his life depended on it. Finally, during the last game of the season, he got a hit. The whole crowd cheered - they knew what was going on. There were tears of joy streaming down our faces until we realized that John Allen was just standing there. He didn't know what to do! He'd never hit the ball before. We had to yell for him to run. I can't remember if he made it to first base or not, but it didn't matter. He had accomplished something that was important to him. We knew, however, that in the competitive sports world of our town, he wouldn't last for long in baseball.
Soccer was another story. He actually wasn't too bad. He was able to kick the ball and had players around him who were encouraging. A couple of times his team actually was the number one team in his league. Still, we knew that when he was older he would never make it on one of those traveling teams.
One day I heard that the daughter of one of the teacher's aids at John Allen's school (this was before homeschooling), had a college scholarship in shooting. Hmmm...shooting...I had never thought of that. After all, you only need one eye for shooting don't you? When I asked the aid how her daughter got started in the shooting sports she explained that youngsters many times begin with competitive BB gun shooting through the Daisy BB Gun Shooting program. She gave me the number of one of the local team coaches, I called to find when the shooting season started, and our shooting journey began.
Our shooting club, Bend of the River, begins practicing in January with the main state matches in March and April. The first Saturday is usually an all day thing with a lot of safety training. The main folks at Bend of the River, Charlie Pardue, his wife Nancy, and his sister Mary Jane, are fantastic. We were total newbies when it came to shooting and had no idea what was going on but they welcomed us and John Allen with open arms. The head coach of the team, Meghan, began working with John Allen right away and was very complimentary of him. It seemed that he had finally found a sport in which he could do well. We didn't attend the pre-state and state match that year because we thought that he wasn't quite ready (remember we were total, ignorant newbies) but we did next year and it was the beginning of his shooting success.
So, where was the place that I almost didn't go? What was the thing that I didn't want to do? Find out tomorrow in my next installment of this week long shooting series - Our Shooting Journey - Part Two - Success!
PS. Do you want to see some early pictures of John Allen at the 2008 National BB Gun Championships in Bowling Green, KY check out this link - http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/album.sfly?startIndex=64&sid=8QYt2bJozZMOQ&fid=12fec66ee21c8d8e . He's in pictures 74, 75, 520. Enjoy the view of John Allen at his first national competition. Boy how far he's come!