Hunting trip leads to Texas man's effort to raise funds for local resident
When Lance Tebben signed up for a Turkey Hunt at the Watson Hunting Camp last fall, he didn’t know he would be making such an impression on the hunt’s guide Stanton Kelley that Kelley would embark on a mission to change Tebben’s life for the better. Tebben, in his 20s, is a resident of Montevideo, an employee at Wal-Mart, and loves to fish, hunt, and be outdoors. However, his love of the outdoors has always presented a challenge, as Tebben is unable to navigate his wheelchair into many of the areas ideal for enjoying these types of activities outdoors, as his chair is a manually operated one, not designed for covering rough terrain.
“Anything outdoors is my passion,” says Tebben. “It’s just being out in the fresh air and in God’s creation.” Kelley, now a Texas-based hunting guide, recognized immediately during the turkey hunt last fall the challenges a manually operated standard wheelchair presents in a hunting scenario. “Lance spent four days with me in a standard wheelchair going across cow pastures, chisel-plowed cornfields, all of these things. You cannot sit in a wheelchair and roll yourself across these areas, so I turned Lance’s chair backward and dragged him across a chisel-plowed cornfield and I told him, ‘Man, this is a lot of work. Your life could be a whole lot easier’. Lance loves to hunt, to fish - that’s his escape from reality, so to speak because he’s not physically supposed to be able to do those things,” says Kelley. After the hunting excursion, Kelley reached out to Tebben’s mother and began planning a way to raise funds to purchase a track chair, designed specifically for rough terrain. Kelley wanted to keep the fundraiser secret from Lance and present the track chair as a surprise, hoping not to disappoint Tebben if the fundraiser took a long time as the funds needed total $13,000. However, Tebben found out about the fundraiser and called Kelley, excited to help be a part of helping raise the funds that will provide him more freedom to do what he loves most.
“These things are not cheap. I didn’t want to tell him because I can’t guarantee that we’re going to reach the funds in six months or reach the funds in 12 months. It’s going to be an ongoing process. I’m going to do the best that I can do to get him this chair so that he can do his deer hunts, he can do his duck hunts he can do what he wants to do when he wants to do it with minimal assistance instead of having to have four people there to set everything up. It gives him a lot more freedom and mobility and independence once he leaves his house to go on one of his hunting adventures,” says Kelley.
The fundraiser began on GoFundMe in April to purchase a device called a Track Chair. The Track Chair is a wheelchair designed specifically for those who enjoy the outdoors, whether it be for a trip through the park or an excursion into the mountains. Track Chair, designed and manufactured in Marshall, allows access to places a standard wheelchair has difficulty traveling through such as small creeks and plow-chiseled fields. “It’s kind of like a four-wheel drive,” says Kelley. “Motorized wheelchairs are very commonplace for elderly folks that have just outgrown their mobility. The Track Chair is for all age groups to be able to get outdoors and be able to do everything outdoors like hunting, fishing, camping.”
Kelley knew about the Track Chairs prior to meeting Lance due to his volunteering, as a prior military member, with veteran’s organizations. “We’ve used those chairs with organizations to get our veterans who either have amputations or don’t have use of their legs to be able to get out into the outdoors,” he says. The Track Chair usually is a larger investment than $13,000, however, Kelley plans to use his military discount to purchase the chair to gift to Tebben, meaning he will have to pay the taxes on the money raised out of his own pocket. Kelley says that’s okay with him if it means he can get Tebben into the outdoors on his own terms. “It’s worth it if this kid gets his freedom and his independence outside of his house,” Kelley says. “The four days I spent with Lance… if I had to pick the face of Montevideo, it would be Lance. He holds a full-time job, he’s always got a smile on his face. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to the kid when he’s let something get to him. He’s always positive. While I was there doing the turkey hunt, I talked to a few people from the community who had dealt with Lance through Wal-Mart and they love the kid. They all say if they’re not in a hurry at Wal-Mart, they go through Lance’s line just so they can talk to him because he’s always smiling and always in a great mood.”
The fundraiser has had a bit of a slow start, raising just a small percentage of the funds needed to acquire the Track Chair since April. “During COVID everyone’s been struggling financially, so it’s been extremely slow compared to what I expected,” said Kelley. “I’m working on everything from Texas and when I can make the chair happen, my mom lives in Pipestone so I’m coming back to Minnesota and I’m making sure Lance gets his chair. He’ll get to go tour the factory and sit down and get fitted for his chair. His mom actually put me on the list at the house with the care facility so that I can pick him up and take him out to get that stuff done.”
So far, GoFundMe has been the primary source of fundraising, although Tebben says community members have been giving him cash and checks made out to Kelley that he’s keeping track of for when the fundraising closes so that it can all be deposited into one account to purchase the chair.
Tebben looks forward to the day he can take a Track Chair out into the woods and celebrate having more independence. “Like Stanton says, it’ll open other opportunities for me and make it easier to get around in the field. That’s what I’m really looking forward to,” Tebben says. “It’s been kind of hard to maneuver around or navigate through the woods in a manual chair and with the Track Chair, I can go anywhere. I’ll be able to get out to spots I’ve never been able to get to.”
“It’s kind of an ‘it takes a tribe’ kind of thing,” says Kelley. “Lance is young and his issues are only going to get worse with age. He has Cerebral Palsy. It’s not one of those things that goes away, it’s not one of those things that’s curable. I just want him to be able to live the life he’s capable of living. When he’s 30 years old he’s going to sit there and say ‘Man, I wish I had done these things’ and if he has the chair he can go out and do them.”
Tebben says those who don’t have access to online donations but would like to donate, can send it directly to his group home’s mailing address 417 S 19th St., Montevideo. For those who would like to donate online, the GoFundMe is located at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/lance-tebbens-track-chair-and-outdoor-independence