Winona veteran develops specially adapted fishing pole

Lonn Cunningham is in the process of patenting a fishing rod that he says functions as a “third arm,” specially designed for those with spinal chord injuries or illnesses.
Winona veteran develops specially adapted fishing pole
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 4:43 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2023 at 9:24 PM CST
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WINONA, Texas (KLTV) - Lonn Cunningham is a U.S. Navy veteran who, as a quadriplegic bilateral amputee, developed a product to help him do what he loves: fishing.

After his service, Cunningham was in a horrific car accident in 1997 that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He had a leg and an arm amputated as well. After the accident, Cunningham was given a list of things he would never be able to do again, but he refused to let that stop him.

“I was told I would never fish again. I was given a list of things that I would never do, and fishing was one of the things. I grew up fishing with my grandfather as a child and then with my kids as an adult, and so I designed a adapted device that I can fish with,” he said.

Through Paralyzed Veterans of America, Cunningham is in the second ever cohort of a small business/entrepreneurship program funded by Wells Fargo. Over the past 12 weeks, he has learned how to start and run a small business, and on Wednesday night he will compete for a $2,500 grant to go towards his invention he calls the Quad Cast.

“I’ve often thought about having a job where I can be my own boss. This opportunity came along through PVA, and I decided to see what it was about. I’m just blown away,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty confident.”

Director and counselor of the program Charles McCaffrey is also a U.S. Navy veteran. His passion for helping fellow veterans and the military community led him to his job at PVA.

“There is much more than just a paycheck that comes with employment or self-employment. There is a sense of dignity, a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning that all of us, but in particular veterans and the veteran community, place a lot of emphasis on,” said McCaffrey.

Since becoming a member of PVA, Cunningham has adopted a mantra: “No one has the right to tell you what’s good enough, so just like that, nobody can tell you what you can and can’t achieve. It’s up to you. If you keep it in your head, you can dream it, you can live it,” he said.

Lonn Cunningham is a quadriplegic bilateral amputee U.S. Navy veteran who developed a product to help him do what he loves.