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Veterans helping Wounded Warriors hit Sierra slopes

October 16, 2013

This Wounded Warrior, who has a spinal cord injury, trains for the 2013 Operation Mountain Freedom biathlon with a Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra volunteer. This month, American Legion Post 118 and Carl’s Jr. are joining to raise funds in support of the 2014 Operation event. Photo by Nick Souza

“We believe the freedom and exhilaration of outdoor challenges changes lives. No one should be left behind simply because of a disability.”  
– Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra
The American Legion will be banding together with Carl’s Jr. to raise funds in support of Wounded Warrior Project athletes who will be attending the upcoming Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra winter event.
WWP is a national organization, dedicated to raising public awareness of and support for injured service men and women, to help them assist one another and to provide services and programs to meet their needs, states
In conjunction with Carl’s Jr., 768 N. Main St., Bishop, American Legion Post 118 will be hosting its biggest WWP fundraiser ever on Tuesday, Oct. 22 and Wednesday, Oct. 23. When customers bring in an official flyer, 25 percent of the cost of their Carl’s Jr. order will be donated to DSES.
DSES will in turn use that donation to fund its annual WWP Operation events. It costs DSES approximately $5,000 for each WWP veteran who attends the week-long Operation Mountain Freedom winter sports event in Mammoth Lakes. The next one will be held Jan. 27-31, 2014
Expenses include travel, lodging, food, instruction, equipment – and the cost of bringing along one guest, said Kathy Copeland, founder and Adjutant Roger Petersen put it.
Although DSES depends in part on grants and personal and in-kind merchant donations, Copeland said, “we couldn’t do what we do without support from the community.”
With this kind of support, Operation Mountain Freedom literally offers WWP participants freedom. “They go from being limited to a wheelchair and navigating sidewalks to mono-skiing the snow on a whole mountain or navigating a whole lake in a kayak. It’s life changing.”
Copeland went on to say that not all disabilities can be seen. “(War is) no longer black and white, soldier to soldier. Now they come back, always waiting” for danger. “On edge all the time,” added American Legion member Ray White, a World War II veteran, who mentioned PTSD as one of the invisible disabilities.
Disabled Sports’ WWP “operations” show participants that “they still can do something physical,” Copeland explained. “It puts them in a totally different headspace. They feel the success of learning a new sport, experience endorphins.”
Flyers for the American Legion/Carl’s Jr. fundraiser are available in Bishop at Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, 690 N. Main St., on weekdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and at VFW Post 8988 Hall, 484 Short St., Monday through Saturday, noon a.m.-8 p.m., and Sundays, noon-6 p.m. (The flyer found at right will also be accepted by Carl’s Jr., according to American Legion member Chuck Kilpatrick.)
“The nice thing about this fundraiser is that all of the money is spent locally,” Kilpatrick said. It’s also good for the economy because “Disabled Sports introduces new people to our area from all over the U.S.”
Bishop Carl’s Jr. Store Manager Ulises Ocampo said that the restaurant’s fundraising “legacy continues” from the philanthropic efforts of Carl Karcher, himself a veteran, who founded the chain starting with one Anaheim hot dog stand. “We can run our business because of freedom that is due to our soldiers,” Ocampo said. “Freedom isn’t free. That’s why it’s our pleasure to also do the spring Stars for Troops” fundraiser, annually raising about $1 million nationwide.
Past WWP fundraisers by American Legion Post 118 and the American Legion Riders, who join the effort atop their Harleys, included rummage sales, dances and poker runs. Amounts raised were then matched by Post 118, Petersen said. During this expanded fifth annual fundraiser, the goal is to raise more than $2,000, Kilpatrick said. “It’s very generous of Carl’s Jr. and (its) Area Manager Manh Che to let us have this kind of donation event.”
2014 Operation Mountain Freedom offers downhill and Nordic or cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and biathalon, which is Nordic and rifle shooting, Copeland said.
Disabled Sports also foots the entire $2,000 cost for each veteran and his or her entire family during the second annual WWP event, Operation High Altitude. It is a summertime “weekend camp-out next to you-catch-’em Alpers-stocked ponds,” an event for the veteran’s entire family, Copeland said. Cycling, rock climbing, fishing and kayaking are on the agenda.
Year-round, she added, DSES’ non-competitive events are available to disabled persons of all ages – novices and seasoned athletes, civilians and veterans, whether they are soldiers “fresh back or from the Vietnam War. Last winter, we even had two fellows from the Korean War.
“We strongly believe in being all-inclusive. No medals are needed.” Disabilities can include cancer, PTSD, brain injury or even knee replacement, she said.
DSES offers ski lessons; a Paralympics preparation club; Alpine Ski and Race, Biathalon and Pedal Paddle (cycling and kayaking) camps; as well as cycling events such as the one it held in Bishop on Oct. 9, Copland said. “We never turn anyone away because of money … That’s why all fundraisers are fabulous.”
Petersen expressed the American Legion’s hope that the community turns out in droves at Carl’s Jr. on Oct. 22-23 in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
For more information about DSES, to sign up for activities, volunteer or make donations, contact DSES at (760) 934-0791,, or P.O. Box 7275, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546-7275.executive director of DSES, the Mammoth Lakes chapter of Disabled Sports USA It’s 100 percent free from “doorstep to doorstep,” as American Legion

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