INKOM, Idaho (KXPI) - Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz recently found a local nonprofit that helps veterans who are struggling with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD and other depression challenges when they return home from war. This group gets them out into the great outdoors for some extreme sports as a way to cope.
This group is called Professional Transformation Sports Development or PTSD.
"It's been remarkable to see the changes that can happen in two weeks with somebody," said founder, Russell Davies on the slopes of Pebble Creek Ski Area in Inkom.
They call themselves PTSD Veteran Athletes. It was founded by Davies in 2017. He saw a need when he returned home from his own tour of duty and also saw his buddies who were struggling.
"Unfortunately, one of my best friends, he lost his battle to PTSD and took his own life and that's when I realized that something needed to be done. There needed to be a better opportunity for veterans to find the same positive outlook and passion through outdoor recreational activities," said Davies.
Their mission is to provide a positive change for these veterans and break the habits that hold them back from successfully reintegrating back into civilian life. They do this through two-week classes and extreme outdoor sports every quarter. In the spring, they rock climb. In the summer they go white water kayaking. Fall is the perfect time to hit the trails on a mountain bike. And winter, of course, is skiing and snowboarding.
Stacey Barker is a veteran from Pocatello. He's been coming out with the group for about three years.
"I think it's great, yeah. I mean, getting people out into the outdoors and letting them experience this. It's incredible," said Barker.
Taylor Ellis is also a veteran from Pocatello. He started mountain biking with the group about three years ago.
"I joined the military towards the end of the global war on terror. And the only thing I really got to deal with is a whole lot of, you know, my buddies losing their lives, you know, struggles with their PTSD and uh, their own struggles in life and I've seen the good that this can do. You know, I lost a buddy last year in March. And uh, you know, he wasn't a part of the group and I can't help but wonder if I had been able to get him out here, if we would have been able to help him out a little bit more, but I've seen the good that it can do for the others in our, you know, in our little family and it's truly amazing you know. They've done great things for us," said Ellis.
Time to Pay It Forward.
"But I mean primarily, this community has been huge by private donations alone, it has been so massive, that I can't," said Davies, pausing as a women walks up to him with no skis or snowboard.
"Russell?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied, a bit confused.
"Hi," said the woman.
"Hi," said Davies.
"Russell. I'm Cassey (Leatham) with Mountain America Credit Union," said the woman.
"Oh, hi," said Davies, a bit surprised.
"I'm here to Pay It Forward for you and your organization," said Leatham.
"No way!" said Davies.
"Yeah, so, we are to," said Leatham.
"That's awesome!" said Davies.
"The jig is up. So, we're actually here to award you with $500," said Leatham, pulling the cash out of a light blue envelope.
"That's incredible!" said Davies.
"To help support your efforts. We just really appreciate everything you do for the veterans," said Leatham, handing over the money to Davies.
"Wow! We greatly appreciate it. And like I said, this is exactly the kind of catalyst of what allows us to operate like this. It's just by, you know, the community that comes behind us and helps support veterans and shows how passionate and patriotic they are. So honestly, things like this is what allow us to be able to operate and change the lives of so many so thank you so much," explained Davies.
"Wonderful. Well, we appreciate you. We couldn't do it without you so," said Leatham.
"Awesome. Thank you so much," said Davies.
"Yes, thank you," said Leatham.
"This will help tremendously," said Davies.
"Good, good," said Leatham.
"Thank you so much," said Davies.
Click here to donate to PTSD Veteran Athletes or if you know of a veteran who could benefit from associating with this group.
"Pay It Forward" stories air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.