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During the Gulf War, several friends of mine were deployed to Iraq on active military duty. There was a mix of excitement, fear and pride among their families as they experienced both the glories and the sacrifice of service. When they returned home, many things had changed: children had been born, family members had passed away and several suffered injuries that would change their lives. The physical and mental tolls experienced by everyone meant a difficult transition back home, and for their foreseeable future. The Arkansas Freedom Fund was created to make this transition easier by providing opportunities for Arkansas Veterans.
The Wounded Warrior Project operated the Soldier Ride bike program in Arkansas from 2005 to 2009. When Wounded Warriors departed, there was a continued need for veteran support, so in 2010 Mark Leonard, Don Kennedy, and Fred Stuebe founded the Arkansas Freedom Fund. The charitable organization provides rehabilitative and recreational outdoor events such as cycling, golfing, fishing, hunting, hiking, martial arts and other programs: all designed to get a veteran outdoors and active, no matter their level of physical ability.
The Arkansas Freedom Fund organizes several biking events throughout the year, including the Annual Arkansas Freedom Challenge Bike Ride, a three-day cycling event held in Little Rock every October. Cycling is one of the best options for recovering veterans to get out and be active once again. The adaptive nature of bicycles makes them accessible to everyone, regardless of ability.
The programs provide veterans with the opportunity to say, “Hey, I can still do this.”
The Arkansas Freedom Fund Freedom Anglers Program offers opportunities for veterans and their families to go fishing. The group provides poles and equipment to those in need. They also work with boat owners around the state who are willing to spend a day on the water with a veteran. Freedom Anglers also supports two annual events. Each June, during free fishing weekend, the group hosts the Bass Fishing with Heroes Tournament at Lake Dardanelle. During the summer, the John Pickell Memorial Red River Fishing Day held at Lobo Landing in Heber Springs is a popular event.
Thanks to generous donors, Arkansas veterans can participate in one of the most popular outdoor activities in the state. The hunting program offers a 650-acre area with seven deer stands to members. Additionally, hunting clubs and outfitters across the state have committed to providing hunting opportunities to veterans at no cost. The program is recognized statewide, and they are always looking for additional sponsors and hunt hosts.
The funding program supports Retired Army Veteran Anthony Smith, a Karate Grand Master, as he travels the country speaking to schools and civic groups about the benefits of martial arts. Smith oversees the Martial Arts program and assists veterans who are interested in learning the discipline.
The Freedom Golf Program loans golfing equipment along with several adaptive golf carts that are available for veterans to use. They have partnered with several golf courses around the state to provide tee times to members of Arkansas Freedom Fund at little or no cost.
Annual golf tournaments are also a great fundraising opportunity for the Arkansas Freedom Fund as they are fun and help them to achieve their mission of providing rehabilitative sporting events. The organization has two established annual tournaments. The Arkansas Freedom Golf Scramble will take place at Diamante in Hot Springs on April 18. Click here to register or donate to the event.
The Arkansas Freedom Fund invites veterans along with their spouses, children and wards to join the group to take advantage of the services that they offer. They rely on the generosity of individuals and business owners to fund programs and provide opportunities for warriors to get active. Click here to learn more about how you can help.