Total raised for area vets likely to break six-digit mark in August
By Brandi Makuski
Planning for the 2016 Guns’n Hoses charity softball game is already well underway — and expectations are high for another successful turnout, in part because Plover police and Portage Co. sheriff’s deputies have been added to the mix.
This year marks the third annual exhibition softball game, which pits local police against firefighters in a friendly competition for a good cause. In 2014, then-Police Chief Kevin Ruder took up the cause to raise funds for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight via the softball game, and raised $45,000 solely through local donations.
By then, Ruder and his planning cohorts decided to split the money between multiple veteran causes: after a certain amount was given to Honor Flight, the remainder would be sent to the Portage Co. Veteran’s Relief Fund, an application-driven emergency fund overseen by a county-level committee of appointees. Vets needing emergency assistance with certain vehicle or home-related repairs can apply for the funds through the Veterans Service Office at the courthouse.
This year, Ruder, who is now retired but continues to co-chair the event, along with the planning committee, opted for an additional use for the funds raised: an all-terrain tracked wheelchair, also known as a “track chair”, to assist disabled veterans during organized veteran-themed hunting events throughout the county.
“[The track chair] can be utilized by vets who want to participate in a disabled veterans hunt, or to visit an area park, or the Green Circle Trail, and get around a little easier,” Ruder said.
One such event is held at the Almond Rod and Gun Club, a favorite charity of Sheriff Mike Lukas, which sponsors disabled veteran hunting events each year.
The planning committee — consisting of Ruder, Mike Clements, the Portage Co. Veterans Service Officer, Chief Marty Skibba and Ofc. Mike Bink from SPPD, Chief Dan Ault and Ofc. Seth Pionke from Plover PD, Sheriff Mike Lukas and Deputy Florian Chojnacki, along with Traci Tauferner from Ministry St. Michael’s — also plan to seek a trailer for the track chair. Details relating to how the chair can be rented and a storage space for the chair and trailer have yet to be decided.
Clements said veterans don’t need to be disabled to use the chair, which can cost more than $12,000, depending on the model.
“Some of these [veterans] have had multiple leg surgeries, or knee problems, that kind of thing, and this would be ideal for them, as well,” Clements said.
Honor Flight remains the primary recipient of funds raised, Ruder said, but after so much success in the past two years, he felt the group could do more to help veterans locally.
The Never Forgotten Honor Flight flies war veterans free of charge to Washington, D.C. for a day of sightseeing at nation’s memorials, and was covered by the City Times in 2014.
More details on future Honor Flights are forthcoming, but the 2016 Guns’n Hoses game will be held on Aug. 27 at Bukolt Park.
For more information on how to donate, go to the Guns’n Hoses Facebook page.