Friends and Patriots should keep an eye out for up and coming USPSA shooter, Lee Wills. He and his brother Jesse and their parents, have been steadfast patriots and supporters of our military veterans. Especially of wounded warriors whom they see often at Walter Reed. Thanks to the Wills family for all your efforts to support our heroes and to Karla who’s brother is currently serving in Afghanistan. Contact me if you’d like to help their fundraising efforts!
August 3, 2011 – By: Paul Erhardt
Courtesy of The Shooting Wire – www.shootingwire.com
Between The Berms: Where There’s A Wills
A fundraising effort for the Wounded Warrior Project is underway in the Area 8 region – the Mid-Atlantic states – of the U.S. Practical Shooting Association.
To date, some 17 fundraising teams have raised just over $7,800 since February, and all because of a letter from a little boy named Lee Wills.
(Lee Wills was recognized as the youngest competitor at this year’s Single Stack Nationals. Photo by Julie Golob)
If the name Lee Wills sounds familiar it’s probably because the 11-year-old was the youngest competitor at this year’s USPSA Single Stack Nationals, which we spotlighted earlier in Between The Berms.
Besides being a single stack shooter in USPSA, and a constant needler of older brother Jesse, a 16-year-old wheelgunner, Lee is a frequent visitor to one of the nation’s most recognized military facilities, the recently closed Walter Reed Medical Center.
The son of retired Army officer LTC Richard Wills, Lee has been a regular at Walter Reed because of a condition called Bilateral Syndactyly/Polydactyly which left him at birth with 14 fingers and webbing in between.
Since his first eight-hour surgery at just four months of age, Lee has been in and out of the hospital undergoing a total of 10 surgeries.
Doctors scheduled an 11th for this winter and say more can be expected until the time he stops growing.
It’s hard enough going through repeated surgeries. Add to that the stigma of his condition and nobody would blame Lee for being quiet and closed off, especially from strangers.
But Lee is just the opposite. While older brother Jesse is the quiet, shy one Lee is outgoing, even flirtatious according to his mom, Karla, who attributes much of Lee’s confidence from competitive shooting.
(Cliff Walsh with his ‘best buddy’ Lee. Photo courtesy Cliff Walsh}
“Lee has a level of confidence he never had before. He’s made many friends and gets an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from pro’s like Julie [Golob] and Kippi [Leatham],” explains Karla.
Lee’s closest friend from competition is 2009 USPSA Revolver National Champion Cliff Walsh who describes the two as “best buddies.” The pair even started their own tradition of hitting a Hooters restaurant after a match to celebrate. (No doubt momjust loves that.)
“He’s been able to endure and overcome with style and grace. Lee’s tough as nails,” brags Karla.
As tough and confident as Lee might be, even the sad reality of Walter Reed can’t be pushed away.
Lee often visits with wounded soldiers when he’s at Walter Reed and shows them his hands and talks about what he’s been through. He’s seen soldiers with missing limbs, and even those missing part of their face.
(Lee was a regular at Walter Reed Medical Center and is up to 10 surgeries, and counting. Photo by Karla Wills)
It was during a visit prior to surgery number 10 in February that prompted Lee’s fundraising effort. He and mom Karla watched as a soldier, missing a leg, fell to the floor in front of them and screamed in agonizing pain as he lay in the hallway.
The sight of someone so strong and brave reduced to screaming helplessness in the hospital hallway saddened and horrified son and mother, and brought both to tears.
That day had a profound effect on Lee and, whether out of compassion or maybe sheer ignorance of what an 11-year-old can and cannot do, he took on what responsibility he could to do something about the plight of soldiers like the one he saw.
First Jesse placed a call to Harry Foltz, the USPSA Area 8 director, to explain the situation, and clear the way for Lee as only a big brother can.
Then Lee wrote a letter to Foltz explaining what he’s witnessed at Walter Reed, ending it with this simple appeal, “Do you think USPSA will help the soldiers, I will help and Jesse will too.”
You can read Lee’s letter to Foltz which is linked below, but when you do I suggest you may want to close the door to your office. The words of a child can have their own profound effect, one you might want to experience in private.
Click here to read Lee Wills’ letter)
After receiving Lee’s letter, Foltz put the wheels in motion to build a fundraising effort for the Wounded Warrior Project starting with an
Area 8 Team page to coordinate the overall effort.
(With the help of Lee’s and Jesse’s sponsors, momentum quickly built for their WWP fundraising effort. Photo courtesy Karla Wills)
From there momentum quickly built as sponsors Zero Bullets, EGW and Hogdon Powder – yes, Lee and Jesse Wills have sponsors – kicked in donations. Julie Golob donated, proving that Lee’s flirting really does pay off.
Karl McKeever at GT Target Stands, another Wills Brothers sponsor, donated steel for a WWP side match at the 2011 EGW Area 8 Championship, while Volquartsen Custom made donated gift certificates.
Then Area 8 clubs joined the effort hosting their own fundraising matches starting with one at Topton Fish & Game then York Izaak Walton #67, Lower Providence Rod & Gun Club, Southern Chester Co. Practical Shooters, East Huntingdon Practical Shooters, Fredericksburg Practical Shooters, Tenafly Rifle & Pistol Club, Lewistown Pistol Club, Pardoe Sportsmen Association, Roanoke Rifle & Revolver Club and Eastern Shore Practical Shooters.
Karla, who’s good friends with Tommy Thacker at FNH USA, and Foltz pitched Thacker on a shotgun donation. The result is a donated FN SLP Mark I Shotgun to be raffled off at the EGW Area 8 Championship, with raffle tickets sold at several of the WWP matches.
And as recently as this week Nevco Targets has jumped on the bandwagon with a donation of Steel Challenge stage targets.
That’s a ton of support in a short period of time, and the fundraising is still ongoing.
Now…Lee Wills hasn’t won any major titles. He isn’t a pro shooter. He’s not on the ‘Super Squad.’ He’s not a USPSA Grand Master, a Master or even an A Class shooter – yet.
However, this 11-year-old little boy is proving to be one of the most influential shooters in the U.S. Practical Shooting Association with a small army of shooters rallying to his cause.
All because what Lee saw he didn’t like, so he thought he’d try and do something about it.
…Where there’s a Wills, there’s a way.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network