CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Five years ago, a nasty fall left John Karlovic paralyzed and unable to do what he loves most – hunting. But with the help of some Mahoning County Career and Technical students, he’s getting that ability back.
Karlovic’s family is full of hunters. His 89-year-old father still hunts and the activity has always been a part of their family outings.
Since he was young, Karlovic has hunted birds, rabbits and deer. He says he even bagged a moose and black bear.
“This was the first thing that my father and I really bonded over. It wasn’t sports or anything like that. It was hunting,” said Karlovic’s son Blaise, who is also MCCTC’s treasurer and chief financial officer.
Karlovic suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed from the chest down after his accident.
“I thought that my hunting days were over, along with everything else,” he said.
His family learned about a device made by a company called Be Adaptive that allows quadriplegics to use their mouth to line up a shot.
Then students from the MCCTC Machine Team stepped in.
“I didn’t know how it was going to go because we’re just high school kids,” said senior Tyler Connolly.
Welders, engineers, mechanics and carpenters installed the table and electronics for the adaptive technologies trailer.
It’s equipped with a fully automated hunting system, including a scope for a crossbow and shotgun integrated with a TV screen that he can watch from inside the trailer.
Everything is powered with solar panels, except for the shooting and aiming mechanisms, which Karlovic will control with his mouth. Karlovic will be able to roll right in and hunt.
“When he came here and he saw it, he loved it,” Connolly said. “It made us feel good that we did our job right.”
Joe Merritt, a truck and diesel instructor, says the project is amazing.
“It works, it shoots. He should be able to kill something with it!”
Blaise says this is the most excited his father’s been in 20 years.
“This place is a godsend…It allows him to get back out there. This is what he loved to do.”
Karlovic says the students’ effort means so much to him and moves him to tears.
There is one thing John can’t do on the hunt – bag what he shoots. He says he’s alright with that.
“Somebody else can go get the animal if I’m lucky enough to bag one.”
Derek’s Dream Hunt in Cambridge, Ohio is an archery deer hunt specifically for hunters with a disability. It’s going on this weekend, and Karlovic and his family are going to get him back on the hunting grounds.