Helping Vets Transform Their Lives
Your Local ABC will be wearing red on Fridays through Labor Day to show support for our troops. And each friday we'll also bring you a troop related story to remind all of us of their efforts and sacrifices.
Tonight we focus on a local non-profit organization which is creating change in the lives of wounded vets across the country.
Camp Patriot organizes outdoor adventure programs that give vets a chance to regain their confidence.
Founder, Micah Clark believes in creating and fostering relationships with disabled vets through using teamwork on these extreme outdoor adventures.
Whether it's bear hunting in British Columbia, or back country dog sledding in Montana, Clark's hope is to kickstart a life changing transformation of sorts in each of these vets' lives, something that inevitably happens on these adventure trips.
"That's what this whole thing is about. The suicide rate is 22 a day with our vets right now. That's just an epidemic that you're not hearing about," said Clark.
He says more needs to be offered to disabled vets, and he's determined to do his part. "The VA is inundated. I'm not saying anybody's doing a bad job... it's just that there's such a huge need. A lot of these kids get a lot of different drugs handed to them and other things. So the best way you can curtail some of this stuff is through relationships, and that's what we do. It's very powerful."
Fostering a bond with veterans is a way to keep them engaged, and Clark has found outdoor adventure is a terrific way to do that.
"The time we spend on the adventures is a way to create that relationship, that bond, and then also break down some of the chips that are on shoulders," smiled Clark.
In one Camp Patriot outing, three veterans, Gil Maganus Jr., Eric Cowan, and Derek Ford - each with disabilities, ranging from missing fingers to the loss of a leg - went to summit Mount Rainier in July of 2011.
That's more than 14, 000 feet of grueling, hard-core climbing.
But Clark believes anything is possible given the opportunity. "There's really no limit. I guess the most severe injury we've seen is a vet who was completely blind and missing an arm. So, we've been able to overcome everything."
He is also starting a project to develop a ranch in Montana to centralize his efforts, and he hopes to help even more vets in the near future. "You're kind of bringing everything under one roof and hope to have 300-500 vets coming through these activites versus 30-40 a year.
Clark says the beauty of the program is many of these veterans who were mired in depression get a new lease on life. "They become outdoor junkies, you know, they take off and that's all they do now. Some are climbing Kilamanajro and some of them even have aspirations to climb Everest!"
Whether navigating the rapids in North carolina, elk hunting in Utal, or summitting Mt. Rainer, Clark is changing vets' lives one day at a time.
"It's pretty powerful when you get a kid that comes back and gives you a big hug and says, this made a difference in my life," Clark said.
The Camp Patriot Clark has begun to develop will cost about $2 million annually.
He is fundraising currently, and will be doing several events over the next few months, including a 5k Fun-Run on the 4th of July and a motorcycle Freedom Ride in August.
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