Making The Outdoors Accessible For Over 30 Years
The History of the founding of....
Capable Partners, Inc.
By: Jim Hale, founder and past president of Capable Partners, Inc.
Written November 21, 2014.
I was raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, and have loved the site of ducks cupping their wings over the decoys, the honking of a goose circling overhead,
the smell the woods as I walked to my deer stand, and the slurping sound of a brown trout sipping bugs on the stream surface forever, it seems.
Just about anything to do with hunting and fishing have been part of my being since I was a little squirt.
Right from the beginning, I was blessed to have awesome partners who showed me the way. My grandpa Stammer, my Uncle Cal,
and my Uncle Gil got my dad into all of the hunting and fishing "life style" they could......then me. I loved every step of learning from them and then
sharing many outings with them for many years. My uncles continue to be partners in my life journey, and we have occasional outings to cast a line and
mostly reminisce over hundreds of our "highlight films" of the past.
Early in 1980, I went to Abbott Northwestern Hospital for some lower back surgery. I was in deep pain for many months. There was no specific injury,
but years of sports as the "little scat back" in my early years did some damage, I'm sure. And at the time, I also had some very troubling career loses going on.
Stress breaks many things.....quickly... or over time. My surgery included being in upper body traction for a week and then therapy for weeks after that.
As I looked out the window of my hospital room one evening that October, I felt really stirred. It happened to be the opening weekend of duck hunting. My daughter
had just brought my hunting hat to me to wear in bed. I had not missed that opening day experience since I was 12 years old, except for during the fall in Viet Nam
many years before. My heart was really troubled.......I was told I would walk fine, be fine, no big deal, except for being aware of a "bad back".
But.....................what if they....great doctors I am sure....were wrong? What if I would not be able to walk in the marsh and set out decoys, or tramp through the
high corn and stubble for some pheasants, or walk down the bank and wade my favorite trout stream? What if?
I met guys in the hospital on my floor who were in car wrecks. One guy fell out of a deer hunting tree stand. I met other guys who were destined to be in a wheelchair
or worse. And some of them loved to hunt and fish. I was really stirred, hearing their sobs, their fears, and their anger.
More than a year later, as I worked on my health and career issues, having a loving, caring and courageous wife hang in there with me through all of this, and seeing
my 3 little girls growing up fast...I could not stop thinking about the "what if" looming in my life.
Please understand, for me, the Lord Jesus Christ is my Savior and Master, and I loved HIM since I was 12 years old. HE most certainly had taken me through some
very dark times over the years...as well as abundant times......when I followed HIM. My "lying down in green pastures" during this time really brought me to my knees
and an understanding that HE was now, once again, the real power that I needed in order to "renew" my life in ways that mattered. The thoughts kept coming to me
more and more. How could I help men and women who loved to hunt and fish, but were now physically disabled, renew their love for the sports and actually have quality
experiences again? I never thought about it as being "babysitters", but the word "partners" just kept ringing in my ears. I recalled how excited my dad and uncles felt
when I shot the bird or caught the fish. I know how joyful I feel watching a buddy lay that fly out for the trout. Both "partners" need to share equally in the experience.
BUT...what if one was not capable of doing some of the physical stuff? I shared my thoughts with my dear Uncle Gil. He always listened to me over the years and offered
good counsel and honest rebuking when needed. And he was fully aware of my situation physically. He was very supportive of the concepts I presented to him, and he was
fully excited about the possibilities I shared with him about creating an organization to help avid outdoorsmen and women come together and share capabilities to
I love to build things (like plans for businesses or training programs, etc). The juices really started to flow. I came up with some ideas for a duck hunting pit to hold
wheelchairs, a lift to help it be accessible, a ramp over the Apple River in Star Prairie for chairs to be right over a great trout run, and some special sleds to be pulled
behind a tractor to safely hold a chair and a pheasant hunter. My good friend, Charlotte, a designer, made some wonderful watercolor designs of these very ideas for me.
I tucked them under my arm and showed them to everyone I met in the days ahead.
My next key contact was my long-time buddy and partner since my army days, Rich Hackett. He had a large farm south of the cities. He and I had connected since I moved
to Minneapolis years before. We hunted together and grew our families together. He got it.....right away. He saw the concept and the reality of how to make it happen.....and
the drawing designs stirred him up, too. Eventually, in a few years, Rich would commit his many acres of land to form the first-ever Capable Partners Wildlife Recreation Center.
He implemented the first "hunting sleds", the accessible trap-shooting range, a unique archery range, and a clubhouse for many family and community gatherings. And, it was
all accessible....all capable of supporting the real outdoor activities in a quality and safe environment. I continue to be so grateful for him in my life today in so many ways.
I met Barry Hite early on in my quest to learn more through some networking I then did through Courage Center and Vinland Center. He was an avid outdoorsman who was
also physically disabled and in a chair. I met him, and he was very affirming and challenging in some real life issues I had never considered. A few years later, Barry became
the first Program Director of Capable Partners, and I am forever grateful for his work and guidance. Another very unique partner came into my life. Pat Burke was a high-level
quadriplegic who heard about what we were starting to do. He and his son made many unique adaptive devices for Pat to shoot geese with me in his blind, cast for trout in the
Root River with me, and guide me in my dog training efforts from his chair. Pat passed away years ago. He will always be a very special man in my life and was one of the first
board members of our new organization for many years .
The momentum was building as I met more folks at sport shows, sports groups dinners, and networking at hospitals and recovery centers. We put together our first fishing outing
in 1981 on White Bear Lake. Ron Sahara wrote a great article. Don Shelby, of WCCO fame, had his bass boat and became a great new partner for us. We had
4 partnerships (8 total people) which also included former Vikings football player, Karl Kasulke, in his wheelchair, and a true Capable Partners "rock", Mike Hanson, who
happened to be blind but was so very capable of helping me understand "overcoming" in many ways. More hunting and fishing outings continued to develop each month and
season. A great day of pheasant and duck hunting at MN Horse and Hunt Club was a huge success. Jeff Passolt, of a local TV station, did a nice interview with Barry and others.
Then came more outings, more TV, and more and more joining in on our concept of Capable Partners.
We formed a board in 1982, including some very special men in my life then and now: Gil, Rich, Erv Kamm, Bob Peterson, Barry, Pat, Mike, Jim Zumbush, Greg Runyon,
and Jim Vorderbruggen. I wish I could remember all the guys for sure. Please forgive me if I've left out names. Anyway, we had significant help from then Senator Jim Ramstad
to help guide our 501c3 non-profit registration through very quickly. Partnerships were happening by the week with funding support, some grants, and many able-bodied and
disabled men and women stepping up, while overcoming their own barriers or beliefs of what they could do again. There were more outings by the month. For over 10 years,
we grew to be one of the first of its kind of organization in the country. Then the time came for me to step down in 1994.
I am so grateful for all the "oldies but goodies" men and women who have kept the mission going and growing all these years. Well done! You guys know who you are, and I
deeply appreciate each of you. Thank you for staying in touch we me, too.
I learned in those many years that disabilities come in many different forms. The chair or the crutches or the cane are easy to spot. But the wounded heart and soul....not so much.
I learned from my many disabled partner's wives, parents, kids, and pals what those wounds can do to the will and the purpose of a man....or woman...after the accident or the illness
or an issue that changes their physical capabilities. For me, the gift of renewal of my soul and my spirit was the driving force in my "heart transplant". It was God's Grace that
helped me to leave this part of my life of directing Capable Partners and move on. My new disabilities had become pride and ambition. You know, it's the stuff that comes to some
of us who think we are the power-partners that make everything happen. I do know there were many men and women who had renewed spirit and purpose because of going, once again,
on a truly authentic fishing outing...I saw it, I heard it, I felt it. Or, it was the quality duck hunt, or the well-planned deer hunting success again that made a difference. I had letters
that brought tears to my eyes and JOY to my heart. The barrier of the curb, the weather, the field, the marsh, or a well-intentioned family member were broken down by our partnerships.
I saw two men (or women) on our outings...equal in purpose... and equal in anticipation for doing something they loved to do...and doing it...together. Sure, one was more capable of
some of the activities than the other, but this was not "babysitting". This was renewal of an outdoor adventure and the bonding of a new partnership that would ignite a renewal in
families' love, mutual respect, renewed work-ethic, healthy friendships, and for many, gratitude for what God can do in ALL THINGS.
Jim Hale - Bio:
* Married to Lois for 48+ years
*3 grown daughters, 6 grandchildren (all living in the Mpls. area)
*35 years of successful business experience in sales, training, and executive coaching
* Licensed and ordained minister since 2006
* Founder and current executive director of Mentor Corps since 2007, a non-profit organization, providing training and equipping for mentors helping mentees, recruited out of
incarceration, addictions, or homelessness, who want to transform their lives.
* Member of Wayzata Evangelical Free Church in Plymouth.
* Continues to enjoy the passion for fly-fishing, regionally and nationally, with special partners, Bob Younghans and Bob Humphrey, and experience periodic Canada duck and
goose hunting with his very special partner/cousin, Bob Stammer.