‘We won’t let the enemy win;’ White Heart Foundation Guardian Project benefit raised funds, awareness for Veteran mental health Saturday

(Lander, WY) – The White Heart Foundation’s Guardian Project benefit dinner was held at the Lander Community Center on Saturday, August 27, and according to Foundation founder and Executive Director Ryan Sawtelle, the evening is estimated to have grossed about $25,000, just a little more than last year.

h/t Vince Tropea photo

Since 2016, the project has brought Veterans to Lander for a mental health program that utilizes eco-adventure therapy.

Led by White Heart Warrior Cpl. Jed Morgan, groups of veterans are taken 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,” the website states.

(To donate directly to the Foundation, click here.)

The evening’s main speaker was Jordan Stevenson, a NAVY Veteran and EOD Tech who sustained a bullet wound to the head while serving in Afghanistan.

Stevenson spent almost two months in a coma, and later opted to have his leg amputated due to nerve damage sustained from the injury.


(To listen to Jordan’s full story and learn more about the White Heart Foundation from Sawtelle, check out the Coffee Time interview here.)

After a long, still ongoing recovery, Stevenson ended up attending the first Guardian Project retreat in 2016, and now has come back to serve as a mentor in the program.

White Heart Foundation funder Ryan Sawtelle interviews Veteran and Guardian Project mentor Jordan Stevenson. h/t Vince Tropea photo

Stevenson then shared that his partner that he deployed with in Afghanistan tragically took his own life last November, and that his new mission is to raise awareness for Veteran mental health.


“We won’t let the enemy win,” Stevenson commented.

Prior to Stevenson’s speech, Lander broadcasting legend Joe Kenney was honored for his years of service to the Foundation, and the Veterans taking part in this year’s excursions were also honored with commemorative coins.

In addition to the speech and honors, attendees were also treated to a raffle, an auction led by Bryce Westlake, food catered by the Wyoming Catholic College (and served by volunteers from the LVFD and Fremont County Fire Protection after a last minute catering emergency), and entertainment from stand-up comedian and America’s Got Talent participant Cam Bertrand.


Sawtelle later told County 10 that he is “excited about continuing to grow” the program, and already looking forward to next year.

Check out some more photos from the event below.


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