Oregon teen gets handcrafted bow

Oregon teen gets handcrafted bow from Indiana group she befriended during proton treatments at IU

A brown UPS truck had just departed from the Maupin household in Corvallis, Oregon. And Hannah Maupin was beaming as she carefully unwrapped the archery bow that had been custom made for her 2,300 miles away in Bloomington, Indiana.

There, weeks earlier, Hannah had selected a piece of black walnut from a tree planted by her great-grandfather nearly 100 years ago. The bowyer, Scott Mitchell, had carefully melded the black walnut with strips of maple and purple heartwood so the bow would be light enough for the 13-year-old to wield, and strong enough to endure the tension required to propel an arrow more than 150 feet per second.

For five Wednesday evenings last spring, Mitchell and other members of the Bloomington Archery Club provided Hannah with a welcome diversion from her cancer treatments at the Indiana University (IU) Health Proton Therapy Center. Proton beams were used to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had re-appeared in the seventh grader’s chest and abdomen last year. Chemotherapy and stem cell replacement at Oregon Health & Science University had preceded 28 rounds of proton therapy.

“It was just really wonderful to break up the time,” said Hannah’s mom, Leah Maupin, who was born and raised in Bloomington. “These men made a daughter out of her.”

“I loved going there,” Hannah added. “ I wouldn’t want to miss it for anything.”

Hannah’s introduction to the bowmen of Bloomington came about during a conversation with one of her proton radiation technicians at IU.

“Frankie Willbanks asked me what my interests were, and I said, ‘Archery,’ ” Hannah recalled, telling Frankie she’d love to learn how to use a real bow and arrow. The tech knew that Steve Chambers, another IU proton patient, was an archery enthusiast. Chambers invited Hannah and Leah to visit a shoot at the archery club.

“The first time we drove out, I didn’t know what to expect,” Leah said. “They were doing an outside shoot. And Doug Fritch — he teaches archery to kids at the local Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs — he helped Hannah. And then Steve and Scott and others joined in to help find the right bow and teach her proper technique. Everyone just welcomed her.”

“The first day, we couldn’t find the right-size bow,” said Hannah. “They were all pretty heavy. I was horrible. I didn’t understand the [proper] form.

“The second day, I was more comfortable,” Hannah continued. “I had a bow that was lighter. And I hit the target that day. A ball hanging by a rope. I was thinking I would never hit that ball. But I did.”

Hannah never imagined she would find herself shooting her bow alongside the club regulars. “By the third visit, they let her up on the line to shoot with them,” Leah said. “Hannah loved it.”

During her final outing at the range, Hannah received a heartfelt farewell from the Bloomington archers. They presented Hannah with all the equipment she would need to keep shooting back in Corvallis: gloves, arm guard, quiver and arrows, with the custom bow to come.

Shortly after her return to her Oregon home, Hannah received a text message from Doug Fritch: “missed u at the shoot last sat. may your arrows fly true”

This weekend, with Scott Mitchell’s specially made bow in hand, Hannah will see how true her new arrows will fly. She’ll remember the proper form taught to her by the Bloomington bowmen. And she’ll remember the incredible kindness and generosity they showed to a teen who just had a wish to try her hand at archery.