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Marathon Petroleum Corp: Mountain 3-D archery made accessible

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It’s an outdoor experience that its creator describes as a “spark of hope” for people with disabilities. Mountain 3-D archery – a sport with courses on rugged terrain instead of typical, flat archery ranges – has been made accessible to participants in wheelchairs through what is believed to be the first project of its kind in the country. This effort progressed through a collaboration involving a charitable foundation, a man who has faced life both with and without the need for a wheelchair, and his employer.

“I have seen firsthand how something like this can change the lives of individuals with disabilities for the better by providing fulfillment from achievements on terrain they may have believed was impossible for them to traverse,” said Brock Carter, Emergency Response Coordinator at Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s (MPC) Salt Lake City refinery and the person who conceived this accessibility concept.

Powerful motivations

In 2015, Carter became paralyzed from the chest down after being thrown from a four-wheeler he was driving in Utah’s Little Sahara sand dunes. Throughout more than four-years of physical therapy at Neuroworx, a nonprofit paralysis rehabilitation center in a Salt Lake City suburb, the avid sportsman said he was motivated by his family and his desire to continue pursuing his love of the outdoors despite using a wheelchair.

In recent years, Carter began organizing hunting and fishing trips for other people with disabilities. He points to the joy in their faces as his inspiration for wanting to bring similar opportunities to more people through wheelchair-accessible, mountain 3-D archery courses. Last year, he shared his vision with representatives of the Dr. Dale B. Hull Foundation For Neurological Rehabilitation, which established Neuroworx, and Mountain Archery Fest, which hosts 3-D archery events in Utah as well as Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. After getting their support, Carter approached MPC, which provided a $25,000 grant to the Hull Foundation to help develop and manage events at five courses this summer.

“Marathon’s donation allowed for modifying courses for accessibility with additional dirt, bridges, obstacle removal and special targets for crossbows,” Carter said. “The best part is these modifications are now in place for more people to use again in the future.”

MPC’s funds also covered course admission and travel expenses for disabled participants who couldn’t afford the costs. Additionally, the grant provided use of archery equipment and electric, track wheelchairs that have rubber tracks instead of wheels for navigating rural landscapes. Unlike a typical archery range, a one-to-two-mile mountain 3-D archery course is laid out in the foothills of mountains along a path like a hiking trail. The sport gets its name from the three-dimensional targets that represent game animals, such as elk, which are placed at different angles and distances on the course.

This year’s multi-day events each attracted between 400 and 700 participants, including many without disabilities who competed on adjacent conventional courses. Each gathering also involved a dinner and a cornhole tournament that generated proceeds for a local charity. This success has Carter thinking big.

“We hope to grow this effort by working with additional nonprofit organizations. I’ve been contacted by people as far away as South Carolina about how to do the same thing in their communities,” he said.

Regardless of potential expansion, Carter emphasized the focus will always remain on providing encouragement to people with disabilities.

“I had people who had never shot a bow in their lives, or never shot a bow since becoming disabled, drive in from other states because they wanted to take part so much,” he said. “This is more than recreation. It’s an opportunity to have conversations with people in the same situation, so it gives them a sense of community and the drive to be better each and every day.”

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