Thankful Thursday Raises $31K for ‘Hunting With Heroes’
This organization was founded by veterans, for veterans and it exists to provide those who have served our country with opportunities to reconnect with friends, families, and themselves.
Per their website, "At Hunting with Heroes Wyoming, it’s our mission to give back to our nation’s disabled veterans by honoring them with unique hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences. We offer a progressive healing environment where disabled veterans are welcome and supported – a community where they can discover hope again, no matter what battles they continue to fight physically or emotionally. We’re here to save lives."
Frank Grillo, a gunsmith for Hunting with Heroes Wyoming, was one of those lives.
When he came back home, he was directionless. He was angry. He had this boulder on his chest that, try as he might, he just couldn't get rid of. He said he was spiraling and didn't know what, if anything, could save him.
That's when he heard about Hunting with Heroes Wyoming. His friend told him about the organization, and he signed up. He didn't know what to expect at first and, luckily, his first day didn't define the experience for him.
"It was terrible," Grillo laughed. "The wind was whipping the first day. It was raining but it was snowing at the same time. I had ice forming on my camouflage and it was just miserable."
Luckily, Grillo said, the second day was a much different experience. It was on that day he realized just how powerful trips like this can be to a veteran.
"The second day I got up and, as we were dropping back, I saw a bunch of deer and I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to go put a chair over there.' And I shot a deer; I actually shot three deer that day. And when that happened, it kind of gave me a purpose."
And that's the point of Hunting with Heroes - to give disabled veterans a renewed sense of purpose. When veterans come home, often times they are lost. They struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health issues. Many suffer from PTSD. In this year alone, the Central Wyoming Counseling Center received calls on their suicide prevention lifeline from 33 veterans. In many cases, it's hard for veterans to find peace. Hunting with Heroes Wyoming provides that peace, at least for a little while.
Which is why Thankful Thursday was so eager to help them.
Every week, Thankful Thursdays takes place at the Beacon Club in Mills, Wyoming. It's a chance for the community to come together, eat great food, drink cheap drinks, and support local businesses who are doing what they can to better the people of their town. A live auction gives patrons the opportunity to bid on a number of different items, with all of the proceeds benefitting the chosen organization.
And on this night, there were guns. Lots and lots of guns.
"The fun part about Wyoming is that everybody loves guns," Grillo said. "We brought 17 guns to this event and I take pride in the guns I build. There was one gun that was a Remington Model 11, which was a gun based off of John Browning's Model A-5. Browning tried to sell the patent to Winchester and couldn't do it back in 1911. So he turned around and sold it to Remington. They produced those guns from 1911 to 1945. Those guns went to war, both World War I and World War II. And we happen to have one."
Grillo and the rest of Hunting With Heroes auctioned off many rare guns that night, and it paid off. Literally.
"We made $31,163," Grillo revealed. "The money we raised that night is gonna be enough to fund the entire chapter for Casper next year, for all of the hunters. All of our veterans that come out come from all across the country and sometimes they come by themselves and sometimes they bring a family of eight and a dog. We pay for all of it and this one night will pay for the Casper chapter next year."
Grillo specifically thanked Laura Ryan, owner of the Beacon Club.
"She really comes out for organizations like us quite consistently," Grillo shared. "She helps us out a lot. The money we raise in Casper doesn't just stay in Casper. It goes to Shoshoni. It goes to Gillette. It goes to Cheyenne. There's a lot of chapters that don't do a Thankful Thursday. They don't have a Beacon Club with a wonderful woman who's willing to put us up like that. When it does happen, it's a rare and beautiful thing and it's vital to our program."
Grillo said it's not just Laura and the Beacon Club that deserve thanks; it's Casper, and Wyoming, as a whole.
"This program doesn't exist without the ranchers to supply the land," he said. "The guides work for free, but we pay them in beer. Without Casper, there's no Casper chapter. Without the people, there's no program. Wyoming is so patriotic that they go above and beyond for veterans and this program could not exist anywhere else. And Casper is a prime example of why."