INDIANA – Eleven-year-old Lucas McCormick didn’t want to get up when his mother, Kayla McCormick, woke him up on the first day of shooting season in late November.
Like most young hunters, this sixth grader from the Marion Center faced a choice between the determination to shoot his first buck and the desire to sleep in on a Sunday. In the end, Lucas decided to dress in orange and go into the snow-covered forest with his father, Dan McCormick.
“He giggled when I put it on,” Kayla recalled. âHe was half asleep and I kept asking him, ‘Are you tired?’ He just kept giggling, but he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. “
It turned out to be the right decision and a day the McCormick family will cherish forever.
When Lucas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, the McCormick parents decided to do everything possible to ensure that Lucas’ disability never affected his happiness.
Part of that luck was finding a way to incorporate Lucas into the family tradition of hunting. The McCormicks live in Home and have hunted for generations. It is a rite of passage and a passion for the eldest of the three McCormick sons.
They started by tying a shoelace to the trigger of a .243 caliber and telling Lucas when to pull. It was successful enough that Lucas was able to shoot his first doe when he was 8 years old.
But the boy couldn’t see the deer when he pulled the trigger, so they had to find something better.
In 2020 the family took a trip to Wisconsin, where Lucas was able to use a motorized hunting system specially designed for people with disabilities. However, these devices can cost thousands of dollars for base models – not an easy expense when you are raising three young children.
Dan McCormick was inspired. He studied the rig and found that with a little effort he could put something similar together on a much more manageable budget.
A family friend used a 3D printer to make some of the more expensive parts and replaced others. The system is a hodgepodge of ingenuity using door lock operators and phone brackets alongside a range of other devices to create a uniquely personal rig.
It was a yearlong process of trial and error and a brief hiatus for Dan to recover from a liver transplant, but he found out.
Lucas was so excited to use the system that he skipped the archery season entirely. He wanted to wait and earn his first money with his new device.
The wait was worth it.
Dan and Lucas made the 400-meter hike to their elevated tree stand, where the son immediately fell asleep again before his father pushed him awake when the buck came into view about 90 meters away.
Lucas saw the goat on a phone screen attached to the rifle, with a fit of dizziness and giggling, told his father how to adjust the tripod, and then pressed a button to fire.
“He’s getting really happy and giggling so you have to kind of silence him because he’s so excited,” Kayla said. âBut this time he was able to see the deer because there is a screen, and that made him even more excited. He couldn’t see the deer before. He pressed the button and just screamed. You couldn’t hear more. He was so happy. “
Kayla posted the photos of Lucas with his money on her own Facebook page, as she has done with any of her sons’ money for years. A friend asked her to post the photos on the PA Trophy Takers page, which received more than 3 million views, 12,000 likes, 2,600 comments and 22,000 shares.
Outpouring of support
The surge of community support was borderline for the McCormick family, who never expected their story to reach this far.
“I’m glad that he could touch so many people’s hearts with his smile,” said Kayla. âI didn’t think it was going to explode. It’s so nice to hear people’s stories and all of these people to contact me about Lucas. It was unreal. “
Several companies across the country signed up and offered the family hunting trips, taxidermy and processing. Swarthout’s Skull Works in Roaring Branch is making the money for Lucas for free with a promise to do the same if he can get another one in the next archery season.
In everything, Dan and Kayla focus on doing everything they can to make Lucas’ dreams come true.
“He’s a typical kid,” said Kayla. “He tells me that he wants to do these things that all children want to do, and as a parent you think, ‘We’ll make it.’ He doesn’t know any other way. He always grew up with a disability. If you are a parent and love your child, you will do everything you can to achieve something.
âSeeing how happy it makes him really makes us want to do more for him. … Many of his doctors told us that he will not speak, not walk, not walk x, y and z; but he did everything. “
For Kayla and Dan McCormick, parenting means clearing a 400 meter path and building a ramp to the trees so Lucas can have an easier trip into the woods. It means spending a year engineering purpose-built jigs for his rifle, and next, his crossbow, to ensure he can fully partake of a family tradition.
And it means learning how to edit videos to help Lucas achieve his dream of becoming a professional YouTube gamer.
“We just do it because we love her,” said Kayla.