Friday, July 19, 2024

Local nonprofit restores hope for heroes

A few years ago, Marine Corps veterans PJ Kratohvil and Robbie Horne were traveling back from a hunting trip when they had an epiphany. The trip was great, and they enjoyed each other’s company, so why not hit the repeat button and share the experience with other veterans and first responders — especially those struggling to transition from active military life.

It was a no-brainer concept, and in their eyes, incredibly easy to pull off with the great outdoors being the introduction. For example, one trip could be hunting, and then the next could be fishing, exploring, camping, or even a couples retreat. They could do several a year, all the while building relationships and facilitating real chances to heal. Before they knew it, they’d created a 501(c)3 called Therapeutic Recreation Group (TRG) for local veterans, first responders, and their families.

“The experiences and feedback have been great. They always leave us anxious for the next one. This was never about a one-and-done type deal,” said Kratohvil, who served two deployments in Iraq with Horne and now owns Complete Exterior Solutions in Flower Mound. “We want to create a community because once you get out [of the military], that’s the one thing everyone is trying to recreate — that bond and sense of brotherhood they once had.”

He added, “If nothing else, we definitely want to spread awareness.”

The awareness piece is what has really come into focus. On January 5, Beretta, the world’s oldest firearm manufacturer, stepped up in a big way by supplying significantly-discounted shotguns and other essential gear for a TRG-sponsored Arkansas duck hunt. The presentation took place at a special meet-and-greet at the Beretta Gallery in Highland Village. Beretta continues to step up and is partnering with TRG for future events.

Kratohvil, Horne, and other participants left 24 hours later for a three-day getaway where they used their new equipment.

“The mayor was there, too. We couldn’t be more appreciative,” Kratohvil said. “Since then, we’ve received messages from participants who shared that they’ve linked up with other participants and gone back out with their new stuff on separate excursions. That’s exactly what we want to see happen — unplug and utilize the network and gear given to recreate the experience. When we go somewhere, we offer that support system and try to give them all the equipment they need. That way, when they come home, it’s not the end. They can go back out and recreate those experiences if they want. Our events are merely just the introduction. We have to have interaction and accountability beyond that.”

He added, “It usually takes one or two [key sponsors] to sign on first for things to really get going. And a big name just stepped up.”

The transition from active military life can be challenging for combat veterans and their families, and the yearning to recapture the unique brotherhood they once had seems like it is lost forever in civilian life. On top of that, they find themselves juggling dreams of being successful in life with burdens too heavy to keep carrying alone.

Kratohvil said they are committed to restoring, remediating, and rehabilitating these individuals and so many others on their journey back from mental or physically-disabling conditions. Bringing these individuals together in an outdoor environment helps them decompress, open up, and learn coping techniques that can help them fit back into society and reengage with their families.

“We also look for participants who are doing well. It takes all types — good or bad, broken or whole. You don’t have to be broken to be part of this,” he said.

Per their website, TRG facilitates eight annual trips to Arkansas, South Texas, and Colorado. These range from whitetail trophy hunts to hiking trips across the country, jeep tours, mountain climbing, and more. In April, they were in Corpus Christi for a couples retreat that included a tour of the USS Lexington and a spa day.

The goal is to make each event bigger and better than the last, but what’s unique is that they source veterans, first responders, and their families from their local area. With Kratohvil living in Flower Mound and Horne residing in Austin, they saw an opportunity to create local chapters.

“What we want to do is a step above — source people from local areas, take them out, help them recreate the experience, create a local network with guys they can hang out with, and then do it again,” Kratohvil said. “They have the support, and it’s great to see them get involved and keep making progress.”

The sky is certainly the limit for Therapeutic Recreation Group and the latest Beretta sponsorship signals a new chapter in this worthwhile organization’s ever-evolving journey.

“We want to pull from our community and create that for these people,” Kratohvil said. “Who knows where this can go and who it can impact in a positive way.”

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