Donor Profile: Tom Kelly, Danny Spinks and Hal Harris
Three friends share brotherhood and a dedication to helping Shepherd Center patients.
Talk to Tom Kelly, Danny Spinks and Hal Harris for 10 minutes and you just might feel as if you are in the middle of a comedy show. Behind all of the laughter created by these three men, however, lies a whole lot of heart — especially when it comes to helping patients at Shepherd Center.
Lifelong friends since their youth, the three men share a friendship that feels more like a brotherhood strengthened by their shared commitment to giving back to the communities in which they live and work. “We’ve been so blessed and feel compelled to try and bless others and to give back,” Tom says. Danny concurs, “It’s just rewarding to serve others and to see them grow. Hal feels the same. We wouldn’t be as close as we are if we didn’t all feel the same way.”
Tom, Danny and Hal certainly feel similar admiration for Shepherd Center — a sentiment largely behind their donation of both time and land to the hospital for the inpatient hunting program. It provides staff-led, overnight hunting trips for patients. The idea for the program began in 1991, when Harold Hobbs, the manager of Tom’s father’s plantation, Mossy Dell, approached him about taking his friend, former Shepherd Center patient Chuck Seaton, on a hunting trip. Seeing how much Chuck enjoyed this experience, Tom’s father, Gene, felt encouraged to take other Shepherd Center patients hunting at his plantation each year.
After observing these hunts at Mossy Dell, Tom, Danny and Hal felt they could create the same wonderful experience for Shepherd patients at Tom’s land in Monticello, Ga. They held their first turkey hunt there in 1997. Since that time, they have hosted Shepherd staff, patients and family members at Tom’s Monticello property twice a year (in December for deer hunting and in March
for turkey hunting) and at Mossy Dell Plantation once a year (in January for deer hunting).
With safety as their top concern, Tom, Danny and Hal, in coordination with Chris Ravotti, CTRS, an outdoor specialist at Shepherd Center, do everything they can to make the outings successful and enjoyable for patients. The goal is to help patients practice hunting in a real-world environment and regain hope that, despite their wheelchair, they will be able to participate in outdoor recreational activities again. “Doing everything they can” includes, among other things, clearing roads, readying the cabin, determining the best hunting spots for each patient based on his or her injury, and setting up hunting blinds to prevent detection by animals.
Tom, Danny and Hal thoroughly enjoy getting to know each patient and find it rewarding to serve Shepherd Center. When asked why others should donate their time or resources to the hospital, Tom simply states: “Do it. You get more back than you give. Period. End of story. Try it one time and you’ll be hooked.”
Chris Ravotti finds it equally as rewarding to work with donors like Tom, Danny and Hal. “Whatever I need to make the outings more enjoyable, they will drop whatever they are doing to help,” Chris says. “They’re just a great group of guys I can depend on every year to provide an exceptional experience for the patients.”
Written by Rachel Franco
Photography by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.