“Gratitude for sacrifice.” That’s the motto of the Olympia, Washington-based non-profit Outdoors For Our Heroes, an organization that takes disabled veterans on hunting experiences to help them reconnect with nature.
For Tony Leingang, the vice president and secretary of the organization, this is a cause close to his heart. “I wanted to join the military after the Iraq War started, but for health reasons, I wasn’t able to serve. It left me with a sense of guilt since I knew people who were able to serve that were injured, so I wanted to give back. In the Spring of 2016, my neighbor, Jason Brown, approached me with the idea for Outdoors For Our Heroes. I thought since my kids were in their early twenties, and I’m looking to retire in the next five years, it would be the perfect project to take on.”
Brown, the founder and president, was on a corporate retreat when he was asked a simple question, “what do you want your legacy to be?” For Brown, who’s also a veteran, the answer was simple--he wanted to give back to those who had sacrificed so much.
Leingang says veterans come back to civilian life facing numerous issues, both physically and mentally, “many [veterans] can’t go into an enclosed space, like a shopping mall, without experiencing a flight or fight response. Many experience problems with their families, depression, and anxiety. Some might not even leave the house for months at a time. For those that come back with physical disabilities, they often feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose.”
That’s where Outdoors For Our Heroes steps in. “We’re not here to judge them,” Leingang explained. “As long as they have the right documents stating they have an honorable discharge and a disability we take care of the rest. Through our fundraising efforts, we take care of transportation, lodging, clothes, equipment, whatever it is they need. We have special mobility devices, like tracked wheelchairs, that help veterans move around outdoors. If they’re unable to hold hunting equipment we also have special devices that can help them.”
Leingang says for many it can be a life-changing experience. “Being outdoors allows these veterans to be in a calming, safe environment. It gives them an opportunity to decompress in a way they wouldn’t be able to in their normal life. Once they do go on a trip with us, many come back to volunteer and it helps give them a sense of hope and purpose again. We are also able to cater to veterans with terminal illnesses. We recently had an applicant who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and his bucket list item was to go elk hunting. Even though it was off-season we were able to make it happen for him through a special partnership we have with the Fish and Wildlife Department.”
Outdoors For Our Heroes is an all volunteer-based organization with all of their money going toward catering to the needs of veterans. Running a non-profit can be challenging, but Leingang says there’s one thing they don’t need to worry about--insurance.
When Outdoors For Our Heroes needed Directors and Officers Insurance Leingang turned to CoverWallet. “The process was excellent. The online process was quick and easy, I also liked that you offer phone and email support as well.”