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Wednesday was a special day in the life of Columbus resident Heath Zinnel.

It marked the first time in nearly 16 years he was able to go pheasant hunting alongside his family. In 2002, a car accident involving a drunk driver left the Columbus resident permanently wheelchair bound. This made participating in outdoor activities nearly impossible.

But through the donations of many in the Columbus community, Heath Zinnel was able to purchase a $10,000 Rocket Mobility Tomahawk. The chair has treads instead of wheels and can more easily traverse the outdoors.

“I’d like to thank all the donors, the little ones and the big ones. They all helped,” Heath Zinnel said. “I extremely appreciate it.”

On Oct. 14, the Zinnel family hosted a Chili and Soup Fundraiser at 1C Church to raise the necessary funds for the chair. Prior to the event, the family was able to raise $1,270 through a Gofundme effort.

The fundraiser at the church featured a raffle for a shotgun donated by Tweet's Sport Shop and an auction. The items in the auction included a 7 mm Remington magnum rifle donated by Gunslingers, a painting made by Columbus-based artist Dan Smith and various other donated items like jewelry, gift cards, tools sets and more.

Nearly all of the food at the event was made by Heath's mother, Deb Zinnel, including 400 servings of dessert, five roasted turkeys and three hams. The fundraiser was able to raise about $7,500 from the nearly 220 people in attendance, Deb Zinnel said.

The family purchased the chair before the fundraiser and had it on display at the event, gambling the fundraiser would be able to raise the funds to cover the cost, said Heath’s father, Gary Zinnel.

The Tomahawk track chair is a fairly new product made by the Columbus-based company Rocket Mobility. As the chair is considered a recreational vehicle, Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance won't cover the costs for a person to purchase one.

The model Health Zinnel purchased includes a gun rack, fishing pole holder, headlight and tackle box.

“It will change his life,” Gary Zinnel said about the track chair.

Gary Zinnel said the family was originally going to go hunting in the morning but decided to wait until the afternoon for school to get out so Heath's son, Logan Zinnel, could tag along.

Heath Zinnel said he’s happy to be able to experience outdoor activities with his family again. This hunting trip on Wednesday will be the maiden voyage of the track chair. When asked how many pheasants he hoped to bag, Heath Zinnel's reply was simple: “I’d be happy with (just) one.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News Review.

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