Huts for Vets launches golf event to empower veterans in the Roaring Fork Valley
Special to the Post Independent
The inaugural Veterans Cup will take place on Oct. 8 at the Aspen Glen Club. The tournament starts at 10 a.m. for participants and the opening ceremonies begin at 11:30 a.m. All proceeds will benefit Huts for Vets.
Joe DiSalvo and Ryan Del Grosso, Huts for Vets board president, co-founded the Veteran’s Cup Foundation and the Veteran’s Cup to raise money for Huts for Vets after DiSalvo retired from his position as Pitkin County sheriff and the Sheriff’s Cup, which originally supported Huts for Vets, was discontinued.
Now, the Veteran’s Cup has taken over operations and is on the search for partnerships with organizations like the Western Slope Veterans Coalition and other nonprofits to support veterans in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Huts for Vets is a nonprofit organization based in Aspen dedicated to providing transformative wilderness experiences for military veterans. Co-founded in 2013 by Executive Director Paul Anderson, the organization combines the healing power of nature with the therapeutic benefits of group interactions to support veterans in their transition to civilian life.
Anderson created an executive seminar 20 years ago at the Aspen Institute called Nature and Society. In this program, Anderson took participants into the mountains to the 10th Mountain Division Huts to explore the relationship between nature and individuals in an intellectual setting. In 2013, Anderson decided to expand this process to other groups.
“I was looking for another population who could benefit from exposure to nature, with the context of intellectual interpretation to nature,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who is not a veteran himself, read a statistic that said 18 veterans were dying by suicide a day. This came as a shock to Anderson and made him ask himself: could connecting veterans with the great outdoors help them heal?
Thanks to a generous donation from John McBride — the first donor, whose family’s ranch still serves as a base of operations for Huts for Vets to this day — Huts for Vets was launched.
Anderson formed an all-veteran board to run and manage Hut for Vets.
“Veterans serving veterans became a really important part of the program,” Anderson said.
Huts for Vets primarily focuses on offering multi-day backcountry trips in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Currently, Huts for Vets offers six trips a year but is looking to expand. These trips often involve hiking, camping and spending time in rustic mountain huts — provided by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.
Erik Villaseñor, Huts for Vets executive director, said the program takes more of a nontraditional approach.
“It’s a wilderness therapy program but we use a moderated discussion approach to draw out some ideas. Through those discussions, we talk about the greater issues that everyone is having,” Villaseñor said.
Villaseñor explained that it can be hard for veterans who suffer from challenges related to their service to come forward. This program offers a foot in the door to healing. Every trip is attended by a psychologist, who is there to act as a coach more so than a counselor.
“Our mission is to give veterans the tools they need to live long, healthy lives by focusing on the mind, body, and spirit,” Villaseñor said.
Huts for Vets believes that the wilderness experience, combined with the camaraderie of fellow veterans, can play a significant role in healing and personal growth. Veterans have the opportunity to build resilience, gain perspective, and develop coping strategies for their unique challenges.
Huts for Vets started by only offering its services to men who had combat experience. Since then, Huts for Vets has dedicated itself to inclusivity, serving veterans of all ages, backgrounds and branches of the military. They provide life-changing wilderness experiences at no cost to veterans, relying on donations, grants and community support.
Out of the six trips offered per year, two are women-only groups and are led by an all-women team. Two are men-only groups and the other two are coed.
Jessica Bryant, Huts for Vets food coordinator and registered dietitian, works as a guide on the women’s trips.
“There is such a big difference between the two trips,” Bryant said in reference to the all-men’s and all-women’s trips.
“I remember my first trip that was all women. I heard so many people say, ‘I’ve never told anyone this before’ while on that trip,” Bryant continued. “Women who choose to go on an all-women’s trip are choosing that for a reason.”
Huts for Vets is always looking for more women to sign up for trips.
To learn more or make a donation, visit hutsforvets.org. The Veteran’s Cup is still looking for sponsors and participants for their Oct. 8 event. Please visit their website at golftournamentconsultant.com/veteranscup to sign up, sponsor, or make a donation.
Editor’s note Wednesday, Oct. 4: This story has been corrected to clarify the co-founders of the Veterans Cup and Veterans Cup Foundation as well as which organizations benefit from the fundraisers.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.