Portsmouth Herald — When people line up on the starting line of the sixth annual Pack and Boots 5K Road Race on Wednesday, July 4 in Portsmouth, there will be much more at stake than prizes and giveaways.
“This race supports Veterans Count, which provides timely assistance to veterans in critical need,” said David Hampson, who has chaired the committee that organizes the event since its second year.
Veterans Count is the charitable arm of Easterseals Military and Veterans Services, which provides clinical care coordination to veterans of all eras, regardless of discharge status or length of service, throughout New Hampshire.
According to Care Coordinator Victoria Bagshaw, veterans access Easterseals for a variety of support, including stabilization of housing, obtaining employment and connections to civilian and military benefits.
“We also help them facilitate mental health and substance use disorder treatment, strengthen family relationships and navigate elder and aging issues,” she said.
For a current client, who wishes to remain anonymous, the impact affected by Veterans Count cannot be understated.
“Veterans Count and Military and Veterans Services saved my life,” he said. “When I had lost all hope and had given up, it was Veterans Count who stepped in and gave me hope when I had lost all faith.”
Acknowledging he was homeless when he first entered the Easterseals program, he said he was also addicted to drugs and had isolated himself from his friends and family.
“I had lost all self-worth,” he said. “It was through my care coordinator, Victoria, and her relentless commitment and compassion that I am alive today…I was a perfect example of a fallen soldier who had fallen through the cracks.”
Instead of seeing him as “a drug-addicted, strung out head case,” he said he felt Bagshaw saw in him what in fact made him a person.
“When I’m low, she picks me up – and when I’m high, she grounds me,” he said. “With Veterans Count, it’s action, not words, that truly shows appreciation for our sacrifices. Action speaks louder than words. It is because of my care coordinator and Veterans Count that I have a home and I’ve reconnected with my family. I’m working – and instead of feeling hopeless, I feel optimistic about the future.”
For Hampson, who volunteers his time to organize the race, hearing such stories reinforce what he knows to be true – and it goes far beyond politics.
“We need to help these men and women,” he said. “If it means sending a check, please send a check. If it means running in our race, please run in our race. It is the least we can do.”
To learn more about the race, visit www.packandbootsrace.com.