On Tuesday, Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa presented checks totaling nearly $40,000 to four local organizations and programs that work with veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. The event, which was made possible by the proceeds from Blue Chip Casino’s ‘Salute to our Veterans’ event in October, took place at the Stardust Event Center.
Representatives from the four agencies receiving the donations, Porter-Starke Services, La Porte Veterans Court, Combat Bike Saver and Empowering Patriots, were on hand for the presentation.
The Northwest Indiana organizations and their programs will help veterans in La Porte, Lake, and Porter Counties so that their families and friends recognize, understand, and obtain resources to treat PTSD, which affects an estimated 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones.
“This has been a couple years in the making,” said Blue Chip’s Assistant General Manager, Jack Elia, who created the local benefit with La Porte attorney Douglas Biege. “We decided what we wanted to do so we put a motorcycle ride together, we brought a band in, we did a barbecue dinner and we made it a day-long event. We hope that the Salute to our Veterans event will become an annual tradition so that we can continue to help veterans affected by PTSD.”
In speaking about deciding what organizations and programs Blue Chip was going to support, Elia said, “We tried to not have any boundaries and, by that, we wanted to do something for La Porte, Porte and Lake Counties. The Veteran’s Court is here in La Porte County. If you look at Operation Combat Bikesaver and Empowering Patriots they are both in Lake County.”
“We then have Porter-Starke that reaches over the three counties and they’re actually going to be doing mental health training to bring awareness to people so that they can recognize it and get our veterans help. They’re going to be doing classes for that and are going to reach 300 people in the first year. They’ll be doing that in Lake, Porter and La Porte County.”
Jessica McFadden attended the presentation on behalf of Porter-Starke Services and was excited to be receiving the donation, and what it will allow them to do in the area of mental health and PTSD.
“We’re going to use these funds to be able to offer mental health first aid training for veterans to about 1000 individuals throughout our three county area,” said McFadden.
The classes that Porter-Starke Services will be conducting is an 8-hour certification program that will equip someone to be able to provide mental health first aid whenever or wherever it is needed.
“The certification will allow the everyday person to be equipped with the skills to help someone in a mental health crisis,” McFadden said. “With the amount of veterans that we have between our three counties, we’re going to really be able to spread a ripple effect to moms and dads, and to families and co-workers.
“This class really is going to be able to help, for instance, if you see someone who is suffering from PTSD and they have a breakdown in a department store and someone is trained in mental health first aid they’re going to know the step to not only help this person but to treat them with dignity. It’s a really cool certification. These funds will be specifically used for the veterans classes which will train anyone who is connected to a veteran.”