When the garage door to the Montauk Fire Department annex on Second House Road opened wide on the afternoon of May 11, Larry Keller crossed the threshold driving a brand-new Action TrackChair. All but one of the boy scouts of Montauk’s Troop 136 knew who the chair was for.
The scouts were gathered in the annex, their regular meeting place. They had already pledged their allegiance to the flag and recited the Boy Scout motto: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and country, and to obey Scout Law, to help other people at all times . . .”
The person they had decided to help this time by raising $12,000 for an all-terrain wheelchair was their fellow scout Davin Fischer.
Davin is 16. He was born with spina bifida, which keeps him in a wheelchair most of the time, but does not stop him from working at Uihlein’s Marina during the summer months, and generally pushing the boundaries of his disability.
Lydia Fischer, Davin’s mother, said that about two months ago, she and her husband, Bob Fischer, noticed a flier advertising the Action TrackChair that Larry Keller had placed at the Montauket bar and restaurant. Mr. Keller grew up in Montauk. He was injured and partially paralyzed in an automobile accident in 2009, and now distributes Action TrackChairs through his OTP Mobility company.
Searching for ways to get back to fishing and doing the other things he once enjoyed, he discovered the TrackChair, a battery-powered vehicle that moves on tank treads, climbs, passes easily through sand, grass, and brush, and can be outfitted with attachments for fishing rods, shotguns, cameras, or whatever tool fits the driver’s outdoor passion.
Unbeknownst to Davin, his parents contacted Mr. Keller. As the scouts’ plan to raise money to purchase a chair developed, Mr. Keller invited Davin to try one out under the pretense that it would help with a marketing photo shoot. They met at the end of Navy Road and headed for the trails of Hither Woods.
“He was amazed,” Ms. Fischer said on Tuesday. “He was going over brush, up the trails. Then, when Larry came out to the beach at Ditch Plain, Davin went again. Larry was measuring him up for the right size chair. Davin had no clue.”
Davin and Mr. Keller drove their TrackChairs way down the beach to the Shadmoor bluffs where Davin had never been in the eight years he’s lived in Montauk.
On May 4, the scouts met at the firehouse annex excited to be leaving the next day for some whitewater rafting in Pennsylvania. Chris Haines, the scoutmaster, outlined the trip — what clothes to bring, shoes — and then said it was time to recognize a scout whose can-do spirit had inspired Troop 136.
The scouts knew the recognition was deserved, but the award was also a way to get Davin to wheel himself up to the front of the room in preparation for the surprise.
When the garage door opened and the TrackChair approached, it was clear the truth had not sunk in. But then, Larry Keller slowly rose out of the new chair, and offered Davin a hand to climb aboard. The Scouts cheered. Several yelled: “It’s yours,” to make him understand that if the world was not exactly his oyster, it was now a lot bigger than it had been.
On Saturday he joined the troop on the trip to Pennsylvania, and while he could not go rafting as he’d done the year before because of a recent surgery on his foot, he did take the new chair down to the riverbank to fish with his dad.