Where you are today is no accident. God is using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow. Trust Him with His plan even if you don’t understand it.
That is something that 9 year old Jeffrey Paes learned over the past year. Jeffrey is a friendly and outgoing 9 year old. He always has a smile on his face, and enjoys meeting new people and making friends. Jeffrey, like most boys his age enjoys competing in sports, and running around with his friends.
All of that changed forever on Christmas Eve 2014 when Jeffrey was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome Type1. A serious heart condition that affects the electrochemical communication with the heart. His cardiologist started him on beta blockers, and with that came the struggle of adjusting to them and finding the one that worked with his body. But the worse part, was that Jeffrey could no longer play they sports that he loved.
The following year was very hard on Jeffrey. As scared as he was, he never once complained. He always tried to find something to look forward to. Spring brought the start of baseball and lacrosse season, two sports that he loved. In school the kids would talk about what team they were on and how they played in their games. For the first time he felt different, he was miserable. He hated listening to his friends talk about what team they were on. They didn’t understand why he could not play and would constantly ask him why he wasn’t playing. Jeffrey did not want to talk about his heart condition, he did not want people to think he was different. After all, he was still the same kid as he was before Christmas break. That summer, Jeffrey began to take golf lessons, but it wasn’t the same; something was missing.
On Christmas morning 2015, Jeffrey opened up a present of a green bear brave bow. For the first time sense he was diagnosed with LQT1, his face lit up. He could not wait to shoot it. As soon as the store opened the next day, Jeffrey was there. His dad showed him how to stand and how to hold the bow. As soon as his fingers let go of the string and his arrow hit the target, he was hooked. As other people would come into the archery range to shoot, they would watch Jeffrey and tell him he was doing well. He would spend hours in the archery range everyday over the next two weeks, and soon Jeffrey’s fingers began to hurt. He decided he wanted a trigger release, which meant getting a different bow. His grandfather bought him a diamond atomic, and Jeffrey was ecstatic with his new bow. He was shooting X’s and grouping a two inch circle, at 10 and 15 yards.
When he was not shooting, he was thinking about shooting. He would watch YouTube videos of crazy shots and would try to come up with some ideas on his own. He loved to challenge the adults that would come into the range to shoot with what he would refer to as “trick shots.” They would split playing cards on end, shoot through a whiffle ball swinging off a string, and his favorite, shooting an apple off of a mannequins head. Not many people were able to outshoot him, and when they found out he only picked up a bow for the first time a month ago they were shocked.
Jeffrey would always watch other shooters to try to improve himself. His dad would work with him on his form and not gripping the bow. He was grouping well at 20 yards and wanted to start using a thumb release. His dad bought him a thumb release, but did not know the proper way to show him how to use it. Not knowing where to turn, they reached out to Joe Valero of Northern Duchess Archery in Red Hook NY. Jeffrey met with Joe and told him that one day he would like to be a factory staff shooter for Mathews. Joe watched him shoot and asked for a video of him shooting. A few days later Joe called to inform him that Northern Dutchess Archery, along with Mathews, would like to offer him a sponsorship. Jeffrey was given an orange and black Mission Craze 2 and they got him using a hinge release.
Jeffrey joined the International Bowhunting Organization, and on April 24 2016 Jeffrey shot his first competition; an IBO qualifier at Northern Duchess Rod and Gun Club. The night before the shoot he didn’t sleep at all. He was excited and very, very nervous. He had never shot a 3-D target before or had any practice in judging yardage; he had no idea what to expect. After a rough start of some fives and eights in the first half, he settled in and shot tens and elevens in the second half. He won his first competition and was invited to the worlds in Seven Springs Pennsylvania.
The IBO quickly became his extended family, and attended a different shoot every weekend throughout New York and New England. Once again, Jeffrey was part of a team. All though he has met many amazing people, one person in particular had a huge influence on him: Todd Mead, a state director of the IBO. When Jeffrey was introduced to Todd at the New York State Championship, Todd explained to him that he also suffers from a silent dieses. He explained to Jeffrey that it never bothered him in school that he was a little different than the others. It made him realize that although every day is a battle, there are many others who are worse off than him. Having a hidden disease is challenging, but rewarding at the same time. Jeffrey took those words to heart, and for the first time was able to talk about his heart condition knowing that it is okay to be different.
Jeffrey began to notice that his life was like it was before, and though he had to do things differently, he could still do what he enjoyed. One day he came home from school and told us that he wanted to help others. We asked him what he meant, and he began to tell us about other kids in his school that could not play sports for many different reasons. He knew how left out they felt listening to all the other kids, and wanted to do something about it. He wasn’t sure what to do, but after giving it some thought, Jeffrey decided to start an archery club: Shoot From The Heart. He got together with Shawangunk Fish and Game in Middletown NY, which allow him to use their property and their 3D targets. Shoot From The Heart is open to kids and adults, regardless of their abilities or medical conditions. Jeffrey brings his old bow with him to class for those that do not yet have their own, but would like to give archery a try. There is no cost, but he does ask for a donations which is given to the Veterans, so that they may enjoy a day outside hunting or fishing.
Jeffrey also wanted to do something to educate people on Long QT Syndrome. He knows that often times the first and only symptom of LQT is death. Jeffrey, with the help of his town supervisor, put together a bill that is now before the Senate. Jeffrey’s Law would require all children who will are planning to play a competitive sport to have an EKG as part of their physical. It is a 5 minute test that can in turn save a life. He actively raises money for the American Heart Association, and through the program Hoops for Heart, with his school, he has raised over one thousand dollars. Later this summer Jeffrey will be partnering up with a local business, The Sugar Shack in Middletown NY, where they will be donating 10% of their daily earnings to the American Heart Association.
While doing an interview with Off the Beaten Path TV, Jeffrey was asked what haven’t you done yet? To that he replied, “Go hunting.” Last fall Off The Beaten Path, took Jeffrey on his first deer hunt where he was able to harvest his first doe on TV. CRCS will also be taking Jeffrey out on a hunt later this year that will air on the national television station Pursuit Channel. He is also grateful to the New York Bowhunters for making him their “Youth of The Year.”
Jeffrey has won many state titles and tournaments with archery, and has quiet the collection of belt buckles and trophies. He may be on his way to being one of the best archers in the world, but for him it’s not about winning. It’s about having fun doing something he loves and inspiring others to not be held back because they are different. Get out and live your life to the best of your ability and have fun doing it.
God has a plan for all of us, and his plans will always be grater and more beautiful then all of your disappointments.
With the support and guidance of his family and friends, his extended IBO family, Joe Valearo of Northern Dutchess Archery, Mathews Archery, and the great people at Dead Center Stabilizers there is no telling where this sport will take him.