The mission of Veteran Hunter to serve their fellow veterans and first responders battling PTSD continues to get a lift from their involvement with the Grand Valley Safari Club's annual fundraising dinner.

Founder Todd Hisey says their continued involvement has led to their best-ever fundraising kick-off for 2023.

The GVSC donated $5,000 to the nonprofit organization and thousands more were generated from their live and silent auction items at the event, largely thanks to items offered by supporters

Additionally, Hisey says having a high profile at the dinner helps to attract new veterans and other potential partners.

"Partnering with established organizations that already have a good following, good organization and a structured dinner like they have has been really critical to our success," says Hisey.

"It has been critical for us, not only providing us with an avenue to raise funds at the start of the year, but to continue to bring awareness as to who we are, and affirm what we're doing."

He says words of praise and support received on the main stage hold weight with prospective sponsors in the crowd.

"For example, the local representative of Delta Waterfowlers was there and loves what we're doing. What better way to help facilitate a partnership with another organization than your existing partner talking about how good it's been working with you, so it's been super critical."

There's a point during the evening when veterans and first responders are called to the front by emcee John Copithorne to thunderous applause.

"John Copithorne is just a great individual, and I've gotten to know him quite well over the last couple of years. He has a great heart and that heart comes out in his speaking."

Hisey says they are encouraged by the response at the dinner.

"It's nice to see a roomful of Canadians don't feel the same way as this [federal] government does. It warms the heart, makes all of us feel good, and continues to encourage me to continue to put on the good fight to help the organization grow and connect with more veterans."

"This government in Canada has been targeting veterans over the last couple of years. Based on a poll we've conducted internally within Veteran Hunters, we've seen 30 per cent of veterans losing their funding, losing their education funding, or being reduced with what they're being paid to live on by this government."

Raffle winnerVeteran and long-time volunteer Matthew Richie, left, is congratulated by Todd Hisey on winning a raffle for a 7-day Africa safari, courtesy of White Lion Safaris. The raffle was exclusively for veterans and first responders.

He says the hunts and packages provided exclusively for veterans for the live auction and raffle hold great meaning.

"When people get moved like that, it's just incredible and good to see. It has a great impact on the veterans and the first responders that are in the room because they don't often see that in their day-to-day interactions with people.

"For the veterans themselves, the last time they may have felt this way was when they were with their brothers when they were still serving in uniform. It's not only an opportunity to reconnect with each other, but to reconnect with the general population and see that there is a large segment of the population that loves, cares, and admires what they were willing to sacrifice."

Veteran Hunters, a national organization based out of the Cochrane area, has just celebrated its fourth anniversary and its goal is to serve their fellow veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD, by providing peer support and therapy gained through outdoor adventures. 

They have a series that appears on Sportsman Canada. Six episodes were included in their first season, which was launched on Dec. 27, 2021.

More information about the organization can be found here.

The full recording of the interview is below.