By Ann Mason, Cousin and Steven’s Stompers Team Member
The story of Steven’s Stompers begins with Steven Davis.
Steven is a lifelong resident of Bladen County, N.C., an avid outdoorsman, a pipe fitter by trade, and an outstanding athlete. He began noticing symptoms in February 2012 and was diagnosed with ALS by a neurologist on April 30, 2012, at age 34.
Six years after his diagnosis, Steven’s physical abilities have been severely limited by the disease’s progression. He is now confined to a wheelchair and depends on assistance for all daily activities.
He moved back into his childhood home so his parents, Kenneth and Gail Davis, and his sister, Sandra Robbins, could be his primary caregivers. (Valuable caregiving support comes from the staff at Lower Cape Fear Hospice.)
In 2013, Sandra initiated Steven’s Stompers in honor of Steven to raise awareness and funds for The ALS Association North Carolina Chapter through the Fayetteville Walk to Defeat ALS. Family and countless others touched by the effects of ALS joined the Steven’s Stompers team.
For four years, the team raised thousands of dollars, increased awareness of ALS, and, perhaps most importantly, lifted the spirits of Steven and his family and friends. Before donating to The ALS Association, Steven and his team considered how donations to the Association are distributed, the direct assistance to patients, and the percentage returned to North Carolina for research, clinics, and patients.
“The passion that the Association staff shows, and the drive to not only find a cure, but to also help patients and families learn to live with such a restricting lifestyle and strive to keep a quality of life, […] allows Steven to continue to stand up for others in need,” Sandra said.
Steven’s Stompers won best T-shirt awards in 2014 and 2015, and found themselves ranked among the top of some incredibly passionate teams at the Fayetteville Walk in 2015 and 2016.
When the Fayetteville Walk to Defeat ALS was cancelled in 2017 due to a decline in participation, the Steven’s Stompers team was devastated. Steven was finally beginning to participate, and the next closest walk was too difficult to manage for Steven and his Stompers, who traveled in from two or three states.
Sandra wanted to find a way for the team to continue the momentum behind its efforts to find a much-needed cure. Alex Daniel, Sandra’s nephew, a long-time archery enthusiast with a desire to bring a 3D Archery Shoot with a purpose to his home county, proposed that the Stompers host an archery tournament to raise awareness of ALS and funds for the Association’s North Carolina Chapter.
With a date set and a donated venue confirmed, Bladen County Aim for a Cure was created.
Allen Brothers Hunting Preserve graciously offered their clubhouse and grounds on May 6, 2017, for the first annual Bladen County Aim for a Cure. The event was staffed by Steven’s Stompers team members, employees from AG Outdoors, and Steven’s family and friends, who traveled many hours to help.
The Second Annual Bladen County Aim for a Cure was held on May 5, 2018, at the same donated venue. Activities included a 3D archery tournament for multiple classes and a youth and first-time shooter zone, with staff and equipment provided by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, Rinehart Targets, and Walk On Archery. The event also featured various raffles, other games, crafts, and concessions – something for everyone to enjoy.
Alex and Sandra’s passion for this event has been contagious and inspirational. While planning the first event, an issue arose that made archery targets unavailable. Alex took a leap of faith and contacted Deerman’s T.H.E Archery in Ada, Okla., to ask for help.
Jimmy Gould, Deerman’s founder and CEO, and his son, Colton, drove more than 1,200 miles to bring targets to the event. Keith and Sue Foisey, also with Deerman’s, were so touched by Steven, his story, and the 2017 event, that they returned to provide targets for the Bladen County Aim for a Cure.
And, though the event is called Bladen County Aim for a Cure, supporters, participants, and sponsors came from numerous neighboring counties and four states, making it more than a small-town community event.
Businesses and individuals supported Bladen County Aim for a Cure through cash and in-kind raffle and auction items, like a half-day fishing trip, a full-day bow fishing trip, taxidermy service, binoculars, T-shirts, homemade cakes, jewelry, cups, motor oil, archery targets, and gift certificates.
The Second Annual Bladen County Aim for a Cure is on track to surpass the 2017 fundraising total of $6,500. Donations will be accepted through the fall on the event’s One Dollar Difference page. (An official total will be announced and posted on the Bladen County Aim for a Cure Facebook page.)
And while the event raises funds toward ALS research, care services, and advocacy for the Association’s North Carolina Chapter, it is very focused on ALS awareness. An information table provides participants with printed materials on ALS and red awareness bracelets.
This year, Steven’s doctor, Dr. Richard Bedlack from the Duke ALS Clinic – a charismatic, committed advocate for ALS patients, and innovative researcher, and a believer that a cure is possible – spent the day at the tournament. (The Association’s North Carolina Chapter supports the Duke ALS Clinic and the clinic’s Telehealth-in-the-Home program.)
Dr. Bedlack spoke to Aim for a Cure attendees about the disease and research toward a cure, as well as spent time with Steven and his family. He even learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.
The Steven’s Stomper’s T-shirts said, “Fight with Faith.” Despite his ALS diagnosis and all the disease has taken from him, Steven’s faith in God and strength of spirit have only grown over the last six years.
The team logo was inspired by this Bible passage, Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The verse gives Steven’s Stompers hope and strength to fight with a faith we cannot explain. Steven is incredibly thankful for the support that the community and his family and friends have shown for the event and ALS awareness and fundraising.
“I give God all the glory for the success of the team and the way this event has exceeded our imaginations,” Steven said. “If there is anything that can be done to help find a cure, it needs to be done. I wholeheartedly believe people can do great things when they pull together. That is what Steven’s Stompers and Bladen County Aim for a Cure are all about.”
“This disease became personal when Steven received his diagnosis,” Sandra added. “He’s never been one to be helpless or vulnerable; rather, he’s the one who stands up for others in need. Steven and his team want to do anything we can to nurture the hope desperately needed to cope with the many aspects of this tragic condition.”
“Dr. Bedlack rekindled the hope and [The ALS Association] North Carolina Chapter staff opened our eyes to services available to patients,” she continued. “When a cure for ALS is found, Steven wants [Steven’s Stompers] to find another cause and keep fighting!”
Do YOU have an idea for a unique fundraising event? Please visit The ALS Association’s One Dollar Difference page to put that idea into action. What if your dollar, or your friend’s dollar, or your co-worker’s dollar was the dollar that put us over the top to identify the cause and cure for ALS?