Divide Camp banquet raises money for vets
By Steve Tool
Wallowa County Chieftain
Thanks to the generosity of local citizens and merchants who contributed to the third annual Divide Camp dinner and auction, more post-Sept. 11 veterans than ever can spend time in Wallowa County this summer healing both physical and mental trauma. The banquet saw scarcely an empty seat as about 200 people filled Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise on April 30 to show their support and hear several speakers, including testimonies from people who benefited from Divide Camp. The evening also included live and silent auctions.
The evening opened with a prayer from emcee Todd Nash and music provided by Randy Morgan, Jessie Borgerding and Will Wehinger. Borgerding later sang the national anthem as well. Dinner, which included tri-tip barbecue as well as salmon provided by veteran Joe McCormack, was a huge hit among attendees.
Wheeler thanked the attendees and gave a brief overview of the camp’s latest news, followed by a video of Army Chaplain Col. Ron McKay speaking of his experience counseling veterans’ with guilt over their war experiences.
A moving testimony featured Divide Camp beneficiary and volunteer, former Marine Corp veteran Tyler Andreatta, who told of his Iraq experience of being wounded while on a helicopter mission to rescue two fellow marines.
“I took a bullet through my ribs, lung and out my back,” Andreatta said. “Because of that, we had to pull out of there, and those two boys died. It’s been the single hardest thing for me to live with — the guilt ... it’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”
Andreatta explained that he was divorced, discharged from the Marines (because of his injuries) and his dog died.
“I was a country and western song,” he said.
The veteran struggled with alcoholism and a suicide attempt followed by a friend-and-family intervention put him on the road to Divide Camp, which he found online. After convincing Wheeler to let him stay at the camp (it was not yet ready for veterans) Andreatta said he slept without nightmares for the first time in years.
“I knew I had to be a part of Divide Camp. It has saved my life, and the life of other veterans I know personally.”
Nash then presented his son James Nash and Andreatta with specially tied Purple Heart fishing flies as both are wounded combat veterans.
James Nash — also a Divide Camp volunteer — spoke briefly and thanked the audience and other volunteers for their support and outlined the programs available for vets. He also mentioned that Divide Camp was not offering vacations or hunting and fishing trips for the enjoyment of combat vets.
“We’re providing them with a means to heal through outdoor adventure; a way for them to get better without prescription medication,” James Nash said. “It works, and we’ve been effective through guys like Tyler and everyone else who’s come. You can watch the changes occur in a matter of hours, and by the time they leave, they’re different people, and they’re more capable.”
Volunteer Jim Soares, who guides elk hunts for the camp, spoke of how his experience guiding veterans shaped his life. He presented the first veteran he guided — Kyle Wieland — with a mounted rack of the elk Wieland bagged during their hunt. Soares said he got as much out of the hunts as the veterans did and also asked landowners with preference tags to consider donating the tag to Divide Camp.
“You’ll come away a better person for getting to know what I think is our next-greatest generation,” he said to applause.
The live auction followed with some hot bidding for the prizes ranging from art to bed and breakfast stays. Wheeler told The Chieftain that the night ended up raising more than $11,000 for the camp.
“We had 195 with tickets attend the dinner,” she said. “We’re using the funds to gear up and outfit the program.”
Wheeler emphasized that Divide Camp is staffed entirely with volunteers, so funds go directly to the camp.
In order not to saddle local merchants and citizens with the burden of being the sole camp support, Wheeler also brought a trailer load of donations from the Rogue Valley, where she winters.
“We get that local businesses and citizens get hit up all the time, and we want them to know that.”
You Can Help
Despite the recent successful fundraising, Divide Camp still has other needs, particularly in the way of volunteers and outdoor gear. Director Julie Wheeler provided a list of some of the camp’s immediate needs:
• Fishing gear — both fly and spin casting.
• Hunting rifles and archery supplies in good working order.
• A six-plus passenger 4x4 vehicle for transporting guests to and from activity sites.
• Volunteers — camp managers, camp cook, writing (communicating with veteran applicants), a scrapbooker/ historian who can organize the camp’s history, someone to create an interpretive wall with photos and stories about the camp at headquarters and a musician interested in teaching as well as instructors to teach classes of interest to Wallowa County veterans.