Insider November-December 2007

by Quest Staff on November 1, 2007 - 9:49am

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 6

Bass walk carefully around this angler

When Eddie Camara is ready to go fishing, he has a hot 150-horsepower Ranger bass boat waiting for him. His superlative fishing skills have won him two of the sleek craft in recent years, but he sold one and bought a pickup truck with the proceeds.

Eddie Camara
Camara with a catch

Camara, 46, of Shawnee, Okla., says he’s been in love with fishing almost since the days he wore diapers. He competes in bass tournaments all across the country, and in 2005 was the Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Tournament Grand Champion.

Two years ago, after nearly 30 years as a drywall installer, his limb-girdle muscular dystrophy convinced him he needed to spend more time with a bass rod in his hand. Camara has designed and soon hopes to market two pro fishing lures under his own Sooner Lure brand name, with its tag line, “Sooner or later you’ll have to have one.” (And, of course, he’s proud to be an Oklahoma Sooner.)

In another creative mode, Camara and his brother-in-law designed a special seat for his boats so he can best position himself when he’s ready to haul in one of his prize-winning lunkers. “When I’m out on the water, I’m not disabled,” he says. “I’m living life for all it’s worth.”

And his sporting pursuits aren’t limited to the water. When out hunting deer or turkey in his all-terrain vehicle, he says his crutches are the perfect height on which to rest his rifle for a steady shot.

Walking, even with crutches, causes Camara major pain in the shoulders, but it never hinders his love of the great outdoors.

Making the world a better place, one pet at a time

Jurney-Taylor, Leon Masson and his dogs, Elsie and Doodles
Jurney-Taylor, with participant Leon Masson and his dogs, Elsie and Doodles

Growing up, Vicki Jurney-Taylor wanted to become a veterinarian, but her type 1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA1) had other ideas. So in 2003, she turned her lifelong love of animals into Pet Pals of Texas, a nonprofit organization that enables people with disabilities and terminal illnesses, as well as senior citizens, to keep their pets by providing help with basic pet care.

“A lot of people believe that people with disabilities don’t have the right to have a pet because they believe that if they can’t take care of themselves how can they take care of a pet?” said Jurney-Taylor, 49, who lives in Converse, Texas. “That’s why we are out there educating the public on the psychological and health benefits of pet ownership.”

A helping paw

Covering five counties with 48 volunteers, Pet Pals of Texas currently helps over 168 pets.

Volunteers walk dogs, clean litter boxes and dog messes, give medication, pick up pet food and feed, groom and take pets to the vet. The organization services dogs, cats, birds, fish, small animals and even horses, but — for the comfort and safety of the volunteers — doesn’t serve reptiles or vicious pets.

For those who qualify financially (monthly household income less than $800) as well as physically, Pet Pals of Texas offers free pet food and vet care in addition to basic pet care. The nonprofit owns a pet food bank stocked with donations from pet food manufacturers, local pet stores and grocery stores, and also gets a discount from the Banfield Pet Hospitals inside PetSmart.

Volunteers raise money and awareness by holding bake sales and an annual event called the Bow Wow Meow Luau, and do community outreach to distribute information about the organization.

Filling a need

Jurney-Taylor, who relies on a power wheelchair and ventilator, makes all the day-to-day decisions and acts as the manager and executive director for the organization. She conducts interviews with potential participants, does the intake paperwork and makes deliveries to the pet food bank.

Jurney-Taylor got the idea for Pet Pals of Texas when she was working for United Cerebral Palsy, helping people move from group homes to their own apartments.

“When I was moving somebody into their apartment, the first thing they’d want is a pet of their own. And so they’d have to find support for the pet,” she said. “It got to the point where I realized that there was a need for this type of service. And so when I retired, I was still healthy enough to work and I decided to start Pet Pals.

“Most cities have organizations that help people who are terminally ill take care of their pets, and some will help the elderly take care of their pets. But we are the only group that I know of that helps all three of these populations: the terminally ill, the elderly and the disabled.”

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