The First Responder Family Fundraiser and Community Dinner took place last Friday at Dutch Lake Community Centre, where emergency personnel and community members took in an interactive presentation offering tools to help deal with traumatic stress.
Hosted by former first responder, Terrance Kosikar, the event drew nearly 80 people and raised roughly $3,500 through silent auctions and donations that’ll go toward sending a local responder to Camp My Way.
Camp My Way, started by Kosikar, is a wilderness therapy program for Canadian Armed Forces veterans, first responders and their families who’ve been affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I wish there were enough words in the English dictionary to express this overwhelming amount of emotions I have,” said Kosikar, speaking to the event’s success.
“To see nearly 80 people show up from the community, Search and Rescue, fire rescue, RCMP, and all the businesses who helped support it, everybody, no matter what uniform, came together to pull this off; it couldn’t have went any better.”
The Clearwater event is the first presentation Kosikar has done in Canada and he plans to do many more in the years to come, he said.
Aside from offering tools to deal with extreme stress, he noted other objectives of the event include giving a better understanding and education on PTSD to the community.
Warren Marshall, who helped organize the event, has experience with the disorder after coming from a broken home and losing many friends and family members to suicide, disease and drug overdose, including losing his mother and sister to a rare liver disease and his son, who died as a result of the fentanyl epidemic.
Marshall has tried to navigate the health system and take advantage of counseling services offered to those who struggle with trauma and said the effectiveness of these supports is minimal, and though these services can be better than nothing, it’s people like Kosikar and the methods he’s bringing to the table that will pave the way to better change.
“Most people I dealt with were textbook people talking about the ‘ABCs’ of where you are in grief and to where you are in that cycle; I could go on the internet and Google grief and it would be as effective as going to counseling,” said Marshall.
“It’s just a matter of, ‘Oh don’t worry, time heals wounds.’ No it doesn’t. It gets easier, but you have to find your own way and pick those tools up and do it yourself because nobody is going to do it for you.”
Wayne Wysosky, captain of the Clearwater Fire Department, has been with the organization for 22 years.
He was on hand for the event and agreed with the effectiveness of the night’s presentation.
He said he’s used the counseling offered to his organization three times for incidents related to his work as a firefighter, adding there could be more supports and they should be made more accessible for fire fighters, paramedics and RCMP, and additional awareness to the community would also be beneficial.
“I don’t think these issues are really taken seriously by the public, and more awareness on the trauma we go through would be eyeopening for the public to see, or even experience, but I wouldn’t want them to experience it because it’s hell,” said Wysosky.
“(Kosikar’s) whole program was very rewarding and the many aspects of Terrance’s life and the trauma he’s gone through is (also) eyeopening.”
Melody Romeo, who works with Clearwater RCMP’s Victim Services, also helped bring the event to town and echoed the sentiment that awareness to PTSD and supports both need a boost.
She said the presentation is a benefit to those experiencing trauma due to how well Kosikar relates his coping tools to the audience and connects to people through his experiences.
“I was very pleased with the attendance and the people were engaged and that’s huge; you could see it sinking into people and if one person left with some knowledge, that’s great, but you could tell there were a lot more that took something out of that,” she said.
Anyone who missed the event and would still like to help out, can donate until June by contacting Romeo at 250-674-8009 or the Clearwater Fire Department at 250-674-3733.