Ever have one of those days where you really just want to read a feel-good story? Well, I was having one recently and I happened to hear about an organization called Freedom Fighter Outdoors, a nonprofit that has taken on the noble cause of helping raise awareness and aid for injured service veterans. Like the Coast Guard Foundation, Sailors for the Sea, and other philanthropic outfits in the marine world, FFO is doing some terrific work for a great cause.
Through public and corporate assistance, FFO provides services and activities for vets and their families, making possible once-in-a-lifetime outdoor activities to honor and empower a group of fallen heroes in need. These activities help those who have sacrificed to protect our nation and aid in their transition from the armed services to civilian life.
FFO formally launched in February 2014 but has been supporting veterans for the past eight years by hosting fishing and hunting events. The organization, whose board of directors includes several veterans, organizes four to six fishing trips a year, each with up to five volunteer private fishing boats carrying 20 to 25 vets, and covers all housing, food, and travel expenses for the group. Operating out of Montauk, New York, and Lighthouse Point, Florida, Vinnie LaSorsa, one of the organization’s founders and the president of its board of directors, starts each event with a dinner the night before the fishing excursion for FFO’s supporters, volunteers, and vets. After a hearty breakfast the next morning, the warriors cast off for a day of adventure on the water. Later that afternoon, the event staff hands out awards and products that were donated from the organization’s sponsoring partners—an impressive group that includes the likes of 5-11 Tactical, Costa sunglasses, Garmin, GOST, Nite Ize, and Yeti. (FFO also receives support from white knights such as Jimmy Buffett and his company, Margaritaville.) On the second day of fishing, the boat crews are reconfigured, giving everyone the opportunity to forge new friendships.
“When our guests come back from one of our excursions, their smiles are as big as the fish that they’ve caught,” says LaSorsa, an accomplished fisherman who was raised in Annapolis, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay and earned his captain’s license at age 19.
The volunteer crew members, many of whom are professionals recruited by LaSorsa himself, run the onboard operations and allow the families and friends of the warriors to take pictures on and off the boats with their prized catches. “At the end of the day, the crews fillet the fish for the guests to take home with them,” LaSorsa says. “It’s a great escape from the trials and tribulations of their lives. We truly enjoy giving back to the soldiers who give up so much for us, and are able to do so through the support of companies like GOST.”
Brian Kane, GOST’s director of research and development and a founding partner of the company, became involved with the veterans effort three years ago, when GOST first sponsored a Lighthouse Point fishing trip. A passionate advocate for veterans, Kane volunteers his time and solicits donations for FFO’s events.
“GOST is in the security business, which finds us regularly working closely with active and retired service members,” says Kane, who oversees the company’s full line of yacht security, tracking, monitoring, and video-surveillance systems. “Freedom Fighter Outdoors focuses on using private fishing trips to bring joy, rehabilitation, and camaraderie to give peace to our injured veterans. The Montauk excursion is a particularly amazing event, with many businesses and individuals in the tight-knit community donating their time, products, and energy. This year we had 23 veterans in attendance for the four-day event. I can’t think of a more worthwhile partnership for the GOST team, and we intend to continue our active participation in these events in the future.”
Now that’s a feel-good story. For more information about Freedom Fighter Outdoors, to donate to their next event, or to purchase FFO gear, visit www.freedomfighteroutdoors.org.