The hardest day in my life has been watching my son, watch his father (Dennis) , his hero and his whole world, breathe his last breath. It took him six hours to say goodbye to his Dad. My son, Wyatt, was 7 years old. He whispered secrets into dad’s ear. He laid in bed with him, hugged him, kissed him one last time. In those six hours, he grew up right before my eyes. His innocence was lost, his safe home was forever changed and he now had only one parent. I was in uncharted territory as I let Wyatt guide my actions those first few weeks. His needs were the most important. I had to make sure I handled this in an honorable and patient way while being true to us; not what society said to do when your grieving. This is an individual journey. We found some new friends, lost some old ones, and we took each day one step at a time. The little things suddenly became very huge in our lives and we learned to believe in the power of two with a third holding us from within. It didn’t take but a week for Wyatt to show me how we would start our new life together; it was by shooting archery. Wyatt and Dennis would shoot archery every day since Wyatt was 4 years old. I had to learn as I never had held a bow before, but I did learn fast and was hooked. This consumed us and we settled into our new normal. Now I am a Level 2 USA Archery instructor and teach grief therapy through archery with my Dancing Arrow Club. Then things changed. Wyatt had a dream he envisioned at a grief camp. My little man made us into Dragon Slayers.
Dennis was one of the artists for Dungeons and Dragons. Wyatt wanted thousands of archers around the world to slay dragons in honor of his dad, and to raise money for other kids who had lost a parent. The problem was, other kids told him dreams never came true. That was an assumption that we proved wrong a few months later on the first Anniversary of Dennis’s passing. We held the first Dennis Kauth Memorial Archery Shoot on March 8, 2014, and raised $800 for a grief camp. We held a dragon drawing contest at Wyatt’s school to use as targets. The next year we raised $2000 for a fellow student with Leukemia. In 2015, we changed our name to the World Wide Dragon Shooting Day in Honor of Dennis Kauth. It turned out that over 8000 archers from 40 states and 68 countries wanted to be Dragon Slayers with us. That number grows every year. In the last five years, we have had a combined total from around the world of almost $40,000 that went directly to the charities that were in that community where the shoot was held.
In 2019, we will be slaying dragons for our sixth year. Dragon Shoots are held around the world and every shoot raises money for a grief-related charity or an affected family. My son’s passion breathed new life into us. There are dragons all around us. Ours is grief. Someone else’s may be depression, cancer, MS, ALS, alcoholism, PTSD, or MD. Whatever dragon it is, that dragon is taking away a part of you. You’re not alone. We all have a dragon.
Wyatt’s dream and his idea came from a simple question asked by an adult he didn’t know. “If you could have one holiday to design to celebrate every year for your dad, what would it be?” I remember Wyatt’s eyes when he watched his dad. He lost his brightness. I wanted to see that spark return and give him a purpose that was bigger than him. Wyatt the Dragon Slayer seemed to be that purpose. If I hadn’t listened to his story, if I hadn’t believed in his idea and its worth, we wouldn’t know how strong we could have become. Sometimes, we have to carve out our own road, handle the detours, and know that there is always another you build yourself to travel down.
My son showed me true strength. He inspired me at the age of 53 to make my dream come true. I started college and will graduate in May of this year. During this time, I have completed my Grief Support Specialist Certification, am a Certified End of Life Doula, and also a NODA Volunteer for Hospice.
Wyatt and I recently completed our first Ted x Talk on our story too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kDTK23WulA&t=72s).
We hope that our ”Dragon Tale” continues to keep writing itself. Our goal is to the world, that it will add numerous chapters to it, and that one arrow and many, many dragon slayers continue to impact the world.
Our strength is our story. Keep believing in yours.
– Dorothy McElroy, mom to Wyatt who celebrates an RC Plane Flying Tradition with Family Lives On