“It’s not just the hunts. This changes people’s lives.”
Rob Roden said those words when he closed his short bit at the podium Friday night at the second Wounded Warriors Sportsmen Fund fundraiser. Roden, who now lives in Orlando and is studying to be an engineering mechanic at Embry Riddle, has been a part of the Wounded Warriors since he came home from Iraqi Freedom without a leg from battle. He said the object of Wounded Warriors isn’t solely on the hunts they take wounded veterans on, but it is the hook to show them they are no different despite their injuries; it also is to thank them for the sacrifice they made for their country.
“I know this changed my life and it changed a lot of people’s lives,” he said.
At the second consecutive banquet, the event had a full house at the Bartow Civic Center and throughout the room there were items for sale , either bought with tickets dropped in a bucket and/or through a live auction. Money flowed and smiles were abundant.
During the ceremonies Collins emceed, Stephen and Donna Simpson donated $500 in the name of their late son, Sgt. First Class Jeremiah Simpson.
“He came home and he did his time overseas,” Collins told the audience. “And he got killed in a car wreck. He was 28-years-old.”
Simpson was in a wreck in the early morning hours Nov. 17 on State Road 37 in Mulberry. As he tried to cross State Road 60 he hit a dip in the road and the car became airborne, the sheriff’s office reported.
While there is plenty of tragedy when dealing with wounded soldiers and such, most people were only looking upward and forward at the auction.
Donald Thomas was strolling the room with a brown straw hat with $1,000 attached. He was selling tickets at a chance to win the hat.
“I just bought the winning ticket,” Ron Draper said. “And, I’m not buying it for me. I’m buying tickets for my son. Sometimes he has trouble walking so I’m buying tickets for him,” he added about his son who was injured fighting in Vietnam.
He was not the only person to claim having bought the winning ticket. Drew Simpson said he bought the winning ticket. His intention with the $1,000 was to give it to the Wounded Warriors. Neither contestant won, however. Instead, Carolyn Roberts won the hat. What’s more, she also won a Marlin 30-30 rifle.
Elsewhere, Sonny Trask was giving away a purple-handled shotgun. All it took to win was just a roll of the dice. For $5 or $10 people got to roll the dice a certain number of times. The numbers the dice added up to was how many tickets went into the bucket. Plenty took their chances on this game — maybe not because they thought it was a good challenge — but because of the prize.
“That’s the prettiest weapon I’ve seen here,” Wendy Hall said.
Trask also took part in the live auction. As a hobby he builds things from wood. On the block was a front yard swing that could seat four, maybe five people, and a wagon completely made of wood.
“I love doing this stuff and this is a great cause,” he said.
Both items sold for many hundreds of dollars.
Adam Putnam, a Bartow native and the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, and his family were among the guests at the event. He was called up near the end of the event and received a Wounded Warriors pin for his long-time support of the organization.
He said this was an example of the community teaming up with each other to get something positive accomplished and he didn’t know if there was much he could add to what had been said or demonstrated at Friday’s event. He thanked Collins, Dave Hunt and the others involved with Wounded Warrior for having this grow bigger than he thought it would. Plus Roden showed how sincere they are in helping veterans.
“These guys give it all. These guys give it their all,” he said. “They make you seem like you’re not just another person. You’re not an oddity or that something’s in your way. They show you that you are a normal person.”
To support the cause:
As of press time, organizers do not know how much was raised, but one trip could cost well over a $1,000, said Lamar Collins. One trip can contain up to 10 people and the cost is more than hunting. There are meals, equipments, etc., and there is no cost to the veterans. Plus people can still donate. To do so, go to the Wounded Warriors Sportsmen Fund page: http://designcreations2011.com/woundedwarriorssportsmansfund.com/index.html, and click on Donate to the Wounded Warriors Sportsmen Fund.