Funds raised to support veterans
By Angie Landsverk
Area hunters helped raise $10,000 for a nonprofit organization that takes Purple Heart recipients hunting and fishing.
This is the largest amount Hides for Heroes raised for Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation since starting the effort in 2013.
“It’s phenomenal. We’ll be able to have two groups (of veterans) come up and camp with this amount of money,” said Matt Tennessen, who is involved in the foundation.
The national nonprofit provides outdoor sporting activities to Purple Heart recipients who were wounded in combat.
Hides for Heroes involves collecting deer hides, salting them and then selling the hides when the market is right.
Local resident Dave Hintz started it a few years ago, after learning about the foundation and its work.
He works at Waupaca Foundry, and the foundry provides the wooden boxes.
Hintz said volunteers collected 1,260 deer hides during last year’s deer hunting season. That was throughout this area, as well as around Phillips, in northern Wisconsin, where he has a cabin.
Hides for Heroes made $7,700 from the sale of those hides, Hintz said.
“The rest was donated by friends of Hides for Heroes to get it to $10,000,” he said.
The donation was presented to Tennessen on May 31 outside of Weyauwega-Fremont High School.
That location was chosen because two of its students helped collect deer hides last year.
Brother and sister Kyle and Katie Loehrke will be a senior and junior respectively at the school next fall.
They became involved after Jeff Knorr, a local Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation ward, asked Sandy Dykes if any students in the school’s FFA chapter were interested in helping with the effort.
Dykes teaches agriscience at the high school and is also the adviser of its FFA chapter.
“I brought it to my officers and membership,” she said. “These two (Kyle and Katie) jumped out.”
“We are hunters ourselves,” Kyle said.
They watched the box at the high school, as well as several others in the area.
“Every day, we drove around and checked,” he said.
The two of them collected more than 100 deer hides and plan to be involved again next fall.
“It’s a good cause,” Katie said.
Knorr hopes to take the idea to all the high schools in the area, with a contest and a scholarship.
“I just think it’s a great idea, a great program,” he said. “I’m happy to be part of it.”
Tennessen appreciates all the Hides for Heroes volunteers but particularly called attention to how Kyle and Katie helped.
“People always talk about the bad stuff kids do. It blows my mind they would take the time to do this,” he said. “With the kids stepping up, it means a lot. It was completely unexpected.”
Last year was the fourth year Hides for Heroes took place.
Thus far, it raised $26,000 for Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation.
The foundation pays 100 percent of the costs associated with the trips, including travel, equipment, hunting licenses and lodging.
The money raised through Hides for Heroes stays in Wisconsin to support hunting and fishing trips for Purple Heart recipients.
Tennessen became involved in the organization after he went on a turkey hunting trip himself in 2012 through the foundation.
The experience helped him heal.
Tennessen served in Afghanistan from November 2008 to November 2009, after joining the Wisconsin National Guard in 2006.
He was wounded from an IED blast and had numerous surgeries.
His involvement in the foundation resulted in him meeting Hintz at an event in Phillips.
When Hintz learned about the foundation, he had an idea about how he could help raise money for it.
For a number of years, he had been placing boxes throughout the area for hunters to drop their deer hides.
He then salted and sold them to raise funds for various programs at Iola-Scandinavia High School, where his children were students.
His youngest child was a senior in high school when he met Tennessen.
Hintz wanted to keep giving back in some way.
That was the beginning of Hides for Heroes,