Supporting local veterans as they connect with nature and each other

Cenovus’s Superior Refinery’s $10,000 donation to the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is funding its next two Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) trips in support of veterans’ mental health.

Available to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (also known as PTSD), and other mental and physical health issues, these trips offer a chance to heal, relax and connect during a week of fishing, canoeing, and camping with fellow veterans. Hosting its first trip in 2018, the center has since offered five additional trips – with no plans to slow down.

“The canoe trips are a great opportunity for us to assist veterans who can face unique challenges,” says Bong Center Interim Executive Director, Briana Fiandt. “Veterans give so much to our local communities, and we want to do our part to give back to them as well.”

Named after World War II flying ace and hero Richard Bong, the historical center is the home to a museum and multiple showcases honouring those who have served. Although the center has an important role in preserving the history and legacy of veterans, with the BWCA program it is also supporting their future.

“Richard Bong was a true hero, and the veterans center honours that legacy,” said Chris Fortenberry, Cenovus Superior Refinery General Manager. “Veterans have unique mental health needs, and we applaud the Bong Center’s work to support them.”

Supporting veterans - canoe With this unique program, veterans are removed from noise and stress and given the chance to relax and recover.

Duane Lasley, a retired Captain with the U.S. Army, went on the first canoe trip in 2018 and had such a positive experience that he now leads them.

“I was fortunate enough to go on a past trip and it was an amazing experience,” says Duane. “I am doing what I can to help others enjoy a similar experience.”

For Duane, these canoe trips are an important part of breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health and allowing veterans to support and learn from each other.

“When you get together with a group of people that understand you, that have been through similar circumstances, it lets you know that you’re not alone,” Duane explains. “And that’s huge for a mental health benefit.”


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