WALLER, Texas– Chad Waligura is an outdoors expert who helps others be outside, all from his wheelchair.
Waligura grew up in El Campo and learned to hunt and fish from his father and grandfather.
In 1986, when Waligura was 17, he broke his neck jumping into a pool. After the accident, he spent three months in rehab at the TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.
“I focused a lot on hunting and fishing because I wanted one thing, I wanted one thing that I enjoy doing,” Waligura said. “If I could keep that one thing, I knew I’d be fine.”
As soon as he could, Waligura and his father returned to the forest, where they worked to create adaptable gear so Waligura could hunt again.
Waligura stayed in touch with his therapists at TIRR, who approached him to ask if he could speak to current spinal cord injury patients who wanted to do some of the same activities.
In 1997 the TIRR Peers program started. It helps connect new patients with former TIRR patients with similar injuries or interests.
“Of course, when the TIRR peers program started, they accepted me,” Waligura said. “I had no choice. I did it anyway.”
Waligura says so many people helped him when he first got back out that he wanted to pay it back. He has mentored hundreds of people to help them through their rehab and get back outside. Waligura says helping others is his passion.
Waligura was awarded for his work in disabled hunting. He was named Challenged Hunter of the Year by the Buckmasters’ American Deer Foundation; Outdoor Sportsman of the Year by No Excuse Hunting; and he was awarded the Pathfinder Award by Safari Club International. He was also the first quadriplegic to handle a hound/service dog in a UKC & AKC Hunting Test.
Waligura’s latest project is a show called Able Outdoors, which highlights outdoor activities for people with disabilities and includes the types of equipment and support that are available to do so.
https://6abc.com/quadriplegic-outdoorsman-hunting-fishing/12169244/ Quadriplegic outdoorsman makes hunting and fishing more accessible for everyone