Perhaps one of the surest measures of the value of a society is in how it treats those in need, and surely there can be none more deserving of our help than those who have fought and sacrificed their personal safety on our behalf. To that end, and for the second year in a row, Blue Chip Hotel and Casino sponsored their 'Breaking Down the Barriers - Salute to Our Veterans' event to raise money to help veterans in need and those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Jack Elia, Assistant General Manager at Blue Chip Casino, feels strongly about helping our veterans.
“This is our second year of doing something to help our veterans,” said Elia. “Boyd Gaming and Blue Chip Casino believe in giving back to the community, and this is one way we are doing just that. We have started a veteran’s event, and all of the proceeds from this event go towards helping several local agencies that focus on helping veterans living with PTSD.”
Some of the local agencies benefiting from the day’s event include Housing Opportunities, part of the Hoosier Homestead Initiative, which helps veterans to find affordable housing, and Porter Starke Services, which offers therapeutic services to help veterans cope with the effects of PTSD. Funds also go to help benefit groups such as Mission 22, the La Porte County Veterans Treatment Court, Empowering Patriots (which takes shelter dogs and trains them as service animals to help calm PTSD symptoms), Combat BikeSaver (a group of veterans that builds motorcycles which are then donated to other veterans), and Guardian Riders, a local motorcycle group that specializes in organizing events to raise funds to help veterans and their families in times of need.
Elia said that last year’s event raised $35,000 to help veterans, and this year he hopes to match or surpass that amount. Funds are raised through ticket sales for the dinner and motorcycle ride, as well as through donations from local sponsors, including NITCO, NIPSCO and several other local and corporate sponsors.
The event kicked off with a police-escorted motorcycle ride through Michigan City, which paused for a brief service at the memorial for PFC Daniel D. Bruce in Washington Park before returning to the casino, where a vendor fair had been set up, the proceeds of which also went to benefit veterans.
Following the vendor fair was a dinner, with all food donated by Blue Chip Casino, after which representatives from local agencies that work with veterans took the podium to address the crowd of people who participated in the activities.
The event was capped off with a speech from keynote speaker Bryan Adams, Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who spoke about his personal experiences dealing with PTSD, as well as his service in Iraq, an environment he describes as being “filled with nothing but testosterone and anger.”
“This event is all about raising awareness for PTSD, and that’s something that I have a lot of experience with personally and something that I speak about publicly,” said Adams, a New Jersey native who served in the US Army from 2002-2005 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. “It’s a great opportunity to work to de-stigmatize it. PTSD is a huge issue here in the United States. We have a lot of veterans coming back, and they’re dealing with this and it affects their lives and families. It’s something that we as a nation really need to address.”
Adams works with an organization called Active Minds, which works toward eliminating mental health stigmas.
“We have a team of speakers that I’m a part of. We travel around the country and give presentations where we use our personal stories to try to effect personal change,” said Adams.
Among the participants in the day’s events was Jesse Cooper, a member of the Guardian Riders.
“We work all year long to help veterans who are in need and those who are less fortunate. We were here last year, and we feel that this is a terrific and worthy cause. We’re proud to be back here this year, and hope that we can continue to come back year after year,” said Cooper.
If you’re a veteran in need of help, or if you know a veteran who needs someone to talk to, reach out.
They gave so much for us - it’s the least we can do for them.
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