Perfect sporting clays weather—azure skies, cotton-candy clouds and no wind—greeted seventy-five participants at this annual Deep River Alliance fundraising event held at the beautiful Kiowa Creek Sporting Club, located about a one-half hour’s drive east of Denver.
With the precision of that famous Swiss watch, shooters were assigned squads and the clay busting began promptly at 9 am. The broad array of target presentations at the ten designated stations challenged shooters of all abilities. I confess one outgoing quartering target that traveled more like an F-35 than a clay disk initially eluded my shot patterns but at my skill level, it’s tough to miss all of them. Support staff zipped around the course like water bugs on a pond. Stephen LeBlanc, ‘Doc’ Don Gardner, Steve Huey and Scott Rathburn comprised the winning team, with Huey attaining top gun honors with an impressive ninety score.
The shooting portion of the event ended at noon and we gathered in the clubhouse or sat outside on the large wooden deck to eat lunch that featured savory brisket, pulled pork and chicken. Literature placed on each lunch table informed of the Alliance’s structure and mission. The Alliance is an aggregate of six non-profit programs: Anglers of Honor, Craig Hospital, Operation TBI Freedom (A program of Craig Hospital), SCI (Safari Club International) Humanitarian Outreach Program (SCI HOP), Task Force: ISO and Victory Service Dogs.
An overarching function of the Alliance is to fund, plan and implement collaborative outings. Engaging in outdoor activities transcends having fun and experiencing the collegiality of others. The activities serve fundamental therapeutic purposes.
The breadth of programs offered by the Alliance is stunning. Several programs focus on outdoor group activities like fly fishing or hunting, while others focus on learning a new skill, like photography. Additional programs focus on specific needs for daily life, such as providing service dogs or ongoing support services. Family members and caretakers are encouraged to participate in all activities.
Several speakers, representing the soul and energizing force of the Alliance, explained their roles in its mission. The power of their statements impacts like a punch to the head. Bob Adwar, the director, spoke first. Under his directorship, the Alliance had already offered about forty events this year. Bob meticulously detailed how the programs focus on healing and support from physical, psychological or emotional injuries and trauma sustained during military or civilian life.
Examples included severe physical injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Spinal Cord Injuries. This is accomplished through activities and services that enable the individual to re-acclimate and re-engage in life. A positive outlook is crucial in the healing process and these activities and services have proven effective to improving outlook and day-to-day quality of life.
Mark Garcia, a combat veteran, spoke about Operation TBI Freedom. The program is affiliated with Craig Hospital, the world-renowned premier center for specialty rehabilitation and research for people with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. I felt a collective recoil pervade the audience when Mark referenced the terrifying statistics of veterans’ suicides. Mark shared an ennobling sentiment when he said that through the Alliance he can now ‘give back and support the veterans and help them work with a process to help these heroes to go on and go great things.”
Standing next to his service dog, Chuck Williamson, US Army, spoke about burrowing into his basement for six years, the damage done by being overmedicated and then the uplifting and unrelenting search for a purpose. I went fishing in Alaska in 2013 with this organization. Bob (Adwar) saved my life. These programs save lives,” Chuck said, “by giving meaning and a sense of belonging.” Chuck’s recognition was powerfully affirmed by a soul-churning statement made to me by his wife, Susan, when I chatted with her while buying an Deep River hat.
“My husband returned from a Deep River Alliance fishing trip in Alaska, hugged me, and said ‘Life really is worth living.’ That,” said Susan Williamson, her eyes a little moist, “is what this River Deep Alliance shoot is all about.”
The challenging springing teal target was high, but our spirits were higher. On this gorgeous day, a group of clay target shooters joined together to achieve the highest virtue, doing good for others, and by their generosity, enriched their own lives. In the words of Ira Gershwin, “Who could ask for anything more?”
For more information:
River Deep Alliance
Operation TBI Freedom