Dover native Scott Campbell was taking a group of veterans hunting to show his appreciation for their sacrifice in 2010 when he was struck with the idea to make his volunteer work a little more official. Campbell has since founded Hunters Helping Soldiers, an organization that offers veterans a chance to experience the wild outdoors.
What started as just a small local charity has flourished. Now Hunters Helping Soldiers has chapters in Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky and Kansas.
“We go on hundreds of trips a year,” Campbell said. “We probably help between 200 and 300 soldiers total with all of the chapters.”
The organization has taken veterans hunting, fishing and on camping trips all over the nation. The goup has also taken a third-party approach and orchestrated trips for individual veterans. A trip was even arranged for a female veteran to go alligator hunting in Florida. On several occasions, the organization has arranged for veterans to visit NASCAR tracks to check out the races and meet drivers.
The area where Hunters Helping Soldiers really shines though is out in the wilderness.
“A big part of the trips is the camaraderie and being around other soldiers who understand the struggles you’ve been through,” said George Hanstein, a volunteer with Hunters Helping Soldiers.
“A lot of times when we get a group together to go on a trip nobody knows each other, but by the end we’re the best of friends. We exchange emails and phone numbers. We keep in touch,” Campbell added.
Some of the veterans involved with the organization have suffered life-changing injuries, some are confined to wheel chairs or wear prosthesis, but this is a challenge that Hunters Helping Soldiers is prepared to handle.
“If we have to put someone on our back and carry them to the duck blind, we’ll do it and it’s been done before,” Campbell said.
Campbell told the story of a veteran confined to a wheel chair that the group took fishing. The man had never been fishing before -- he didn’t even own a fishing pole -- so the organization bought him one, carried him to the boat and got him all set up to go fishing.
Not only do veterans receive benefits from the program, but there are also veterans that give through the program. Hanstein and Daniel Seeman are both vets who work with the organization as volunteers.
“I’m a product of the Vietnam War and we didn’t have to really help us when we came back. It took many years for Vietnam veterans to feel recognized,” said Seeman. “A couple of years ago, the Vietnam Veterans of America came up with the slogan ‘never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.’ Ever since I heard that, I’ve been all for anything to help vets coming home.”
Page 2 of 2 - Hunters Helping Soldiers is entirely dependent on volunteers and donations, Campbell said.
Hunters Helping Soldiers is in the process of planning a group hunting trip at Fort Knox in December. The group will be able to take 15 people on the trip.
A clay shooting fundraiser is scheduled on June 9 at Owens Station in Greenwood. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and tickets are $65 per shooter for adults and $45 per shooter for kids.
For more information or to sign up for either event, visit huntershelpingsoldiers.com.
For anyone interested in learning more about the organization, a meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Sunday, April 16, at Cheswold Fire Hall, 371 Main St., Cheswold.