After community fundraising efforts, a local man receives a dream come true

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
A group of people excited to see Lance Tebben receive his long awaited Action Track chair gathered at the Watson Hunting Camp Thursday morning to witness the presentation of the chair. Those in attendance included Tebben's hunting friend, a neighbor, representatives from Action Manufacturing, his parents, and representatives from the American Legion Riders organization. WCCO also attended the event to film a segment with John Lauritsen for the evening news.

On Thursday morning, a group gathered at the Watson Hunting Camp in anticipation of the delivery of an Action Track Chair for Montevideo man Lance Tebben. The story began last April when Tebben attended a guided hunt at the Watson Hunting Camp with Texas Hunting Guide Stanton Kelley. Kelley recognized how difficult it was for Tebben to maneuver the fields and landscapes in order to hunt. Getting to know each other during that hunt, Kelley realized that Tebben had a love of the outdoors and a desire to trek into places that were nearly impossible for him to maneuver, and especially without assistance. Kelley, who knew about Action Track Chairs from his work volunteering with Veterans, decided to start a GoFundMe in order to help raise funds to purchase an Action Track Chair for Tebben. 

The fundraiser had a slow start with the COVID-19 pandemic just beginning, and Kelley was becoming discouraged. In a July article in the Montevideo-American News, Kelley and Tebben shared their story, with Kelley expressing just what it was about Tebben that inspired him to go through such an effort. At the time, Kelley said, “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.” 

Shortly after the article was printed, a couple from the area who read the article contacted Kelley to give him the news that they wished to close the fundraiser by donating the remaining amount needed, which totaled nearly $10,000. The couple wishes to remain anonymous, letting their generosity be felt even more broadly. With the GoFundMe closed, additional funds that arrived through the mail were utilized to purchase add-on features available through the company, such as a gun-carrying rack, an arm that attaches to the chair to help hold a hunting rifle, and more. 

The look on Lance's face when he saw the chair being lowered from the delivery van - his first glimpse of the chair. Tebben said he felt incredible.

Action Track Chairs are manufactured at Action Manufacturing, Inc. in Marshall, Minnesota. The manufacturing of the chair began in 2008 when founder Tim Swenson came up with the idea for his son who was in an accident and, after, needed a wheelchair. Swenson wanted to get his son back into the outdoors and so he came up with the idea for the chair that operates with tracks and has enough power to navigate uneven land, thick grasses, and climb steep inclines. The first chair was manufactured in 2009. Nathan Rud of Action Manufacturing was in attendance Thursday morning to present the chair to Tebben. Rud explains that Action Track Chairs, while manufactured in Marshall, are today distributed all over the world. 

Guests gathered to watch Tebben be presented for his chair included Everett Bain, Director of the American Legion Riders in the Montevideo area, and his wife Cheryl Bain, President of the American Legion Auxilliary. The American Legion Riders and Sons of the American Legion also donated to the fundraising efforts, and Bain along with a crew of volunteers from the Legion Riders spent time last fall fixing up the hunting stands at the Watson Hunting Camp for the Capable Partners program that Tebben hunts with each season. Typically the American Legion Riders are known to help Veterans in the area, but when Tebben requested help with the hunting stands they were more than happy to help. “We’ve got a good group of guys that really love to help out,” says Bain. “The Legion Riders members come from a large area - Bellingham, Madison, Dawson, and a lot from Montevideo. We have 78 members…the largest in the State. A lot of our focus is Veteran oriented, but with Lance, he came to us with the Capable Partners need, and if people don’t come to us we don’t know about other opportunities to help.”

As he drove his first lap around the Watson Hunting Camp parking lot, Tebben couldn't stop smiling. He stated to those watching, "I don't think I will ever stop smiling."

Kelley was unable to attend the event in person, being unable to secure a flight from Texas that would ensure he made it to the Hunting Camp in time. Guests at the event helped Tebben FaceTime through the event with Kelley so that he was able to witness everything in real-time. “I just want to say thank you to the entire community. The Watson Hunting Camp for organizing this and setting up everything, the guys at Action Manufacturing, and especially Nate Rud who orchestrated everything on the logistics side of it and getting it all built. I’m just awe-struck at all of the love for a complete stranger and a fundraiser orchestrated by a guy that’s a thousand miles away,” Kelley said. 

Watson Hunting Camp owner Chuck Ellingson was also in attendance, expressing his excitement and bringing Tebben out to the Hunting Camp with his newfound mobility. “With this chair, Lance is going to be able to come out to the WHC and be just like the rest of us. We’re going out hunting. He’s going to be able to get in that chair and he’s going to be able to cross the slew and walk with us… the whole works. We are really excited. This is going to be something special for all of us,” Ellingson said.

Stanton Kelley, who started the fundraiser to acquire the Action Track Chair for Tebben was unable to be present in person, but FaceTimed for the event.

As for Tebben, the smile on his face from the moment of arrival never left his face throughout the two-hour-long event. He smiled his way through an interview with John Lauritsen for WCCO. He smiled his way through the long wait to see the chair for the first time while waiting for everyone to arrive. His smile grew even larger when he first laid eyes on the track chair as it was lowered from the back of the delivery van while guests applauded. And he definitely smiled his way through every moment of driving his new Action Track Chair around the Watson Hunting Campgrounds.  When asked how it felt riding in the chair for the first time, all Tebben could say was, “It felt awesome! It’s awesome!” When asked if it was everything he hoped it would be, he could hardly express how much it was with just a “yes, it is”, but he was too excited to drive it to say more. Tebben says his favorite part about the chair is the gun rest. Tebben will get to use his new rig right away, as he had a deer hunt planned with Capable Partners just two days after the Action Track Chair delivery. He also said he will be going duck hunting as soon as he can get that scheduled. Tebben's mother, Pam, stood in awe alongside his father throughout the event, saying that this chance at greater mobility has been a dream of Lance's for a very long time.

Lance travels into the woods for the first time in his new Action Track Chair.

Kelley, so inspired by the GoFundMe for Tebben, said he’s not stopping his efforts with Lance and the Track Chair. He says anyone who wants to follow along with his future efforts to help those in need have better lives can follow his “The Bronco Ranch Texas” page where his next project will be to fill the freezers of struggling families throughout Texas through his 501c3 “The Blind Faith Foundation” with his Meat 2 Eat program.