Powell Man Helps Those with Disabilities
December 21, 2011 — Paralysis seems to have hardly slowed this Powell man who ranched after his accident and now assists others and organizes hunts for those with disabilities.
Corey McGregor was 21 when a 2001 Memorial Day weekend accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. He spent about six weeks at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Mont., and was released from rehabilitation by mid-July that year.
"I was angry for a week or two," said McGregor, who works at Wyoming Services for Independent Living (WSIL) in Powell. Then he showed chutzpah: "I made the decision that this is what I got dealt - now move forward. That was from my upbringing. You can't dwell on the past. Roll with the future."
A St. Vincent staff member unknowingly put McGregor's outlook into overdrive.
"A male nurse asked me what I used to like to do," said McGregor, an avid outdoorsman. "He said you better get used to tying flies. I wanted to smack the guy. It made me mad. At the time, I didn't think the guy should have said that. But, it made me so mad I was going to show him."
Ten years later, he is married to his wife of seven years, Tanya, and is a Wyoming AgrAbility staff member and independent living program manager for WSIL in Powell.
Randy Weigel, project director for Wyoming AgrAbility in the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted that McGregor received the Linda Gonzales Award this year from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. This award is given to a young person who has made significant contributions to the ability of people with disabilities to live independent lives.
McGregor assists those with disabilities, is available to visit farmers and ranchers about what is available to help them continue farming and ranching and has started hunting trips for those with disabilities.
The road to his dynamic life started not long after his release from St. Vincent. Buoyed by friends who'd stop in, he was asked by a rancher he had worked for to return to work. There was lots of horse work, irrigation and working with cattle. Modifications with Velcro and plastic tubing were made to saddles and to the ranch's only working pickup, and he was lifted into cabs of equipment.
McGregor would calve out 1,200 head of cattle.
Three years later, he received a call and left the ranch to help with a neighbor's leatherwork business but, by June 2007, leather work was slowing and McGregor couldn't be kept on.
Then, a position opened at WSIL.
"I saw an ad in the paper for a position to help people with disabilities," McGregor recalled. "It took convincing from my wife to apply. It was an office setting; I was used to manual work. I wasn't sure and didn't know what to expect."
Now, "I enjoy it," McGregor said. "I can help lots of people and show them you can go on and do anything you want to. I have the experience and can educate them about my mistakes. Life changes but doesn't stop. The key is somebody with a disability can show up and think no one else has a clue as to what they are going through. I can relate a lot more."
He also seeks to help farmers and ranchers stay in farming and ranching, although he's hardly had any requests from producers seeking help.
"It's hard to get farmers and ranchers to have someone come in and go through their operations," he said. "They are very proud. They don't want to ask for help."
McGregor started Wyoming Disabled Hunters in 2008 and has helped those who never thought they'd hunt again. He's starting deer bow hunting trips arranging for modifications, such as for those who can't bend a bow. "The main goal is we didn't want finances to be a burden on equipment," he said.
McGregor hunted with a rifle that fall after his accident. "I didn't know how to go about it, but I wasn't going to give up my hunting passion," he said. "My goal (for the hunting groups) was to get people back into life."
Twenty volunteers helped that first year after starting the hunting groups. Last year, almost 100 volunteered.
This year, the Wyoming Disabled Hunters event was Nov. 1-3 in the Cody area. Ten bow hunters for deer and one rifle hunter for elk participated. Seven deer and one elk were harvested.