Hononegah Archery Inc. in Rockton, Illinois, takes archery on the road with a mobile range. They use the range to showcase archery at Renaissance festivals and historical re-enactments, and it can also be booked for birthday parties and physical-education classes, but the passion inspiring it was the owner’s wish to make archery accessible to children with special needs.
Jeremy Oster founded the company in 2014 after rediscovering his love of archery through his children. Oster is the grandson of professional archer Harry Oster Sr., and learned from him as a youngster. Oster enjoyed archery in school because students of any physical ability could do it. He excelled at archery, even though he wasn’t skilled at other sports. His interest faded after high school, but returned when he realized he and his family could enjoy it together.
Support for all Archers
Two of Oster’s children have special needs, and they excel at archery. Julie, 13, is on the autism spectrum, and Jacob, 23, has a cognitive disability caused at birth. Madison, 15, also excels at archery, and coaches during events. Oster noticed the joy archery brought his children, and dedicated himself to bringing archery to schools and those with special needs so they could also enjoy it.
“It makes me happy because I feel like I have more friends,” Julie told the Rockford Register Star.
Soon after seeing his children benefit from archery practice, Oster looked into licensing and becoming a certified coach through various programs. He can license teachers and schools to create co-ed competitive teams through the National Archery in the Schools Program and Scholastic 3D Archery. He also holds a Level 3 Junior Olympic Archery Development instructor license. If a school partners with Hononegah, the company brings its mobile unit to the school to teach archery as part of its physical-education curriculum. If that sparks interest for a team, Oster has the credentials to make it official.
“The big thing with my daughter and son having disabilities is there aren’t many other sports where people in a wheelchair can compete from the same starting line as their [able-bodied] peers for scholarship money,” Oster told the Beloit Daily News.
Last year, Hononegah launched an event dubbed “Julie’s Archers for Autism” to raise money for autism research through the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center. The event also shows the importance of offering archery as an all-inclusive extracurricular activity in schools. Julie has participated in research programs at the university, and the family gives back by making them their primary cause as a nonprofit company.
A version of Hononegah Archery’s logo was specially designed to support autism. The logo, designed by local artist Jill Calvagna, features the multi-colored puzzle pieces associated with autism awareness in the arrow’s fletching. The range offers a 10% discount on classes to archers with special needs, and can provide scholarships to low-income students.
Try it Yourself
Hononegah’s mobile range is available to rent for birthday parties, corporate events, and other occasions. The birthday-party package includes four hours of training, and games for up to 15 students. They bring an Olympic style safety net to catch arrows, and ensure attendees remain safe. The package also demonstrates it can be set up quickly in backyards. They offer parties with a “Hunger Games” or “Robin Hood” themes.
They strive to make the equipment for historical re-enactments and Renaissance festivals historically accurate. Their longbows have a 20-pound draw weight so archers of any level can try it.
The shop recently received “Tank Chairs,” which are outdoor ATV wheelchairs designed for rough terrain. The chairs can cross grass and navigate places that stop traditional wheelchairs. They’re available at each lesson, and available to rent to all, not just archery students. Hononegah Archery also checks out chairs to anyone needing one. Their deposit is returned if the chair comes back clean and undamaged, which makes it free.
Hononegah Archery’s mobile range makes it easy to share the sport’s passion with others. If you’re in the area, consider renting their range or a Tank Chair.