Rodney Courtney, volunteer executive director at Healing at English River Outfitters (HERO) organization, seated in the new Odes dessert cross 3 seat 800, is joined in the front row by Jacki Bolen, American Legion Auxiliary Fifth District President, who organized and hosted the HERO benefit, and Debbie Courtney, wife of Rodney Courtney. And in back is Kelly Bryan, owner of Fun Valley Motorsports and More and repair technician Shay Moore, at the HERO Benefit held on Friday, March 17 at the Deep River Community Center. The benefit auction raised nearly $30,000 with the funds used to purchase and accessories the utility vehicle for the HERO organization.
By J.O. Parker
There might have been a chill in the outside air, but inside the Deep River Community Center, folks with generous hearts and open pocketbooks filled the place to help a veteran’s organization.
The HERO event, as it was billed, was held on Friday, March 17. The evening included food, an auction and good local music.
Jacki Bolen, the American Legion Auxiliary Fifth District President, organized and hosted the event to raise funds for Healing at English River Outfitters (HERO) organization.
As part of Bolen’s fifth district presidential duties, she is required to have a project that benefits a veteran’s organization. She heard about the work that Rodney Courtney, volunteer executive director, and his wife, Debbie, where doing for veterans at HERO, and thought she could make a difference.
“I liked their mission so I reached out to them to see what they needed,” said Bolen.
HERO was founded in 2008 by the now late Chuck “Bowtie” Geertz who served a total of 23 years in the military, retiring as a Sargent First Class with the National Guard. Geertz died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in August 2019.
Since its founding, the organization has helped more than 400 veterans and their families.
HERO is located on the eastern edge of Sockum Ridge near Washington, Iowa. At the foundation of the organization lies the belief that there is healing in nature. The organization’s motto is “From the battlefields to the healing fields.”
“We facilitate an outdoor experience where veterans and their families can hunt, fish, and hike the trails and woodlands surrounding the lodge,” said Courtney. “We put an emphasis on accommodating veterans with disabilities, both seen and unseen.”
The organization was in need an all-purpose utility vehicle, so Bolen reached out to Kelly Bryan at Fun Valley Motorsports and More near Montezuma to see what options were available.
“We (Bolen and Bryan) sat together and put some numbers together to see if this was even a possibility,” said Bolen. “By the time I left, he promised me a price on an Odes dessert cross 3 seat 800 and a deal to hold this unit for me to see where this would go. No contract, no down payment, just a verbal promise. He was as interested in helping a veterans organization as much as I was.”
A couple months into the project, Bolen said Siraj Thomson, owner of the Longhorn Saloon in Barnes City and his manger Jolene Williams, got on the board with the project and did what they could to make it happen.
“Once it got rolling, we didn’t look back,” said Bolen.
Tami Wilhelm stepped in and helped secure raffle items plus worked to keep Bolen organized and on task.
“My unit… they’re amazing,” said Bolen. “They worked so hard at the big event. From working the front door to cleaning up in the kitchen… they did it all.”
And Bolen’s sister, unit president and district treasurer, Tammi Quinlan, diligently kept the finances straight.
“She kept all the big checks and the $20 bills straight as I randomly handed them to her throughout the last eight months.”
Jacki’s husband, Bill, stepped in to help make it all come together. And there were many others who helped do everything from preparing and serving food to helping gather raffle items, making calls and doing whatever was needed to make it all come together.
Bolen’s early goal was to raise $14,000. She ended raising approximately $30,000. The funds were used to purchase the Odes dessert cross 3 seat 800 for the HERO organization.
Donations came from the American Legion family (legion, auxiliary, sons of the American legion), businesses and individuals from across Poweshiek and the surrounding counties.
“The remaining funds will be used to accessorize the side by side and also will support two other projects that are important to me,” said Bolen.
Guests at the HERO event were treated to a corn beef and cabbage meal. Andy Widmer with Widmer Auction LLC auctioned off the larger items. And music was provided by Cody Hicks and Tyler Richton and the High Bank Boys.
“The place was packed,” said Bolen.
Courtney said having the Odes dessert cross is a plus for the HERO organization, adding that it will be used to transport veterans around the property and also as a means for maintenance and the groundskeeper, with the use of a dump trailer, to keep the hiking trails clear from debris and take care of the 33-acres housing the organization.
“It is truly a blessing,” he said.
As for the future, Courtney said HERO continues to expand its services by providing for veterans who experience PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma with the use of a trained peer support specialist.
“This work is in the process of happening with the help of a number of experienced veterans and providers,” noted Courtney.
Bolen said Courtney was grateful for the benefit and making the Odes all-terrain vehicle possible.
“Thank you to everyone who helped, donated, worked their tails off and came to support my project,” said Bolen. “I couldn’t have happened without the American Legion family and amazing community members.”
“There are more fun events like this to come that will be aimed to benefit our local communities,” she went on to say.
For information on HERO, visit the organization at http://englishriveroutfitters.org.
The Odes dessert cross 3 seat 800 side-by-side that Jacki Bolen, American Legion Auxiliary Fifth District President raised funds at an event on March 17 at the Deep River Community Center to purchase for the Healing at English Rivers (HERO) Veterans organization in Washington, Iowa. Bolen raised almost $30,000 to purchase the vehicle and to donate to a couple other veteran's organizations close to her heart.
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