Nearly $20K raised for Veterans at fundraiser in Lander Sunday

h/t White Heart Foundation - (L-R) Andrea Hill, Maria Hernandez, Ryan Sawtelle, Cam Bertrand, Zina Mitchell, Elaine Jergons & Chandra York

(Lander, WY) – “A Night With Our Heroes” at Lander’s Community Center raised $18,000 on August 29th. Over 300 attendees came out to honor the Guardian Project’s first all-female Veteran retreat group that evening.

The Guardian Project takes place in Lander every summer and is a mental health program that utilizes eco-adventure therapy. It is part of the White Heart Foundation which is committed to serving the needs of our severely injured warriors through direct community support.

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While the White Heart Foundation serves Veterans across the U.S., the money raised in Fremont County stays here, shared Ryan Sawtelle, founder and executive director.

County 10 Photo – 2021 Guardian Project Fundraiser

The evening included dinner as well as entertainment from Cam Bertrand of America’s Got Talent.

The Veterans honored Sunday evening include Maria Hernandez, Chandra York, Elaine Jergons, Zina Mitchell, Samantha Simonds and Andrea Hill – the first-ever, all-female retreat group.

They shared firsthand accounts of their experiences while in active military service, as well as the mental health struggles they’ve endured while transitioning to civilian life. 

County 10 Photo – Front (L-R): Maria Hernandez, Chandra York & Elaine Jergons – Back (L-R): Zina Mitchell & Samantha Simonds

Reflecting on recent events, attendees also honored the 13 members of the U.S. Military whose lives were lost in the line of duty at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan, including 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum.

h/t White Heart Foundation – Honoring of the 13 service members who died in Afghanistan on August 26th

Brett Berg, the owner of Baldwin Creek Rental Center, was also recognized for his support of the Guardian Project.

County 10 Photo – Brett Berg being recognized

Due to the tremendous generosity of the people of Lander and surrounding communities, $18,000 was raised at the banquet, including a $4,046.93 donation from Exxon Southside Travel Center in Thermopolis.

“White Heart Foundation’s Guardian Project is grateful for the community’s assistance in continuing to provide this life-saving program for military veterans in need, not only here in Lander, but throughout the country.”

– White Heart Foundation

The Guardian Project is led by White Heart Warrior Cpl. Jed Morgan, who takes groups of veterans on remote outdoor excursions with the goal of improving mental and physical well-being. This unique environment creates a comfortable space where veterans battling post-traumatic stress or military sexual trauma can open up and relate to others who have had a similar experience.  

To learn more about the Guardian Project and how you can help save lives, click here.

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