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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:11:09 22:41:09

STAFF PHOTO/C.J. MARSHALL Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro listens to U.S. Army veteran Travis Rupert’s story about how Hunts for Healing worked in his life.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:11:09 22:36:37

STAFF PHOTO/C.J. MARSHALL Mindy Picotti, right, introduces Travis Rupert, a U.S. Army Veteran from Williamsport, as one of the speakers at Hunts for Healing, in which the organization received a $64,000 donation from Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro presented Hunts for Healing, a local veterans support group, with a check for $64,410 on Friday.

The presentation was one of several stops the Attorney General made throughout the area on Friday, discussing matters that affect veterans, including the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.

According to Mindy Piccotti, Founder/Director of Events for Hunts for Healing, the money is the largest single monetary donation the organization has received since its establishment in 2009.

Shapiro explained during his presentation that the money does not come from tax dollars. Instead, the $64,410 is unclaimed money from a 2010 settlement.

“Rather than letting the money sit around in some account, doing nothing, we decided to dispense it to Hunts for Healing,” Shapiro explained.

Located in Laceyville, Hunts for Healing promotes ‘Challenges in the Outdoors’ for veterans. Among the programs offered by Hunts for Healing include hunter and firearms safety; clay target shooting; various types of hunting and fishing; camping; boating; and hiking. Contributions to Hunts for Healing helps provide lodging, meals, hunter gear and clothing, fishing equipment, and licenses to participants.

“We chose Hunts for Healing because it is a terrific non-profit organization that helps veterans suffering from PTSD and other disabilities,” the attorney general explained. “They actually work with the veterans and make a difference in their lives.”

Some of the challenges facing veterans today is many are suffering from mental health issues. Many veterans are prone to opioid abuse, he said.

“Thirteen Pennsylvanians die of an opioid overdose each day,” he said. “The includes many veterans across Pennsylvania.”

Hunts for Healing and other similar organizations give veterans the opportunity to deal with their pain, and not just by giving them a pill. Even veterans who are not abusing drugs are susceptible, he said, pointing out that vets are twice as likely to die as a result of an accidental drug overdose.

“I want you to know that I am here for you,” Shapiro said, explaining that he is proud of the services provided by Hunts for Healing.

Piccotti thanked Shapiro for his generous donation, as well as the support Hunts for Healing receives from its volunteers and the community.

“Without you, this would not be possible,” she said. “We are all here for our veterans. Many veterans have paid with their limbs and their lives, and we thank you for your support.”

Piccotti also thanked various organizations for their support - including the Methodist churches in Spring Hill and Skinners Eddy, as well The Luzerne Foundation, which has provided financial information to Hunts for Healing.

Travis Rupert, a U.S. Army veteran from Williamsport, spoke about how he met Piccotti who introduce him to Hunts for Healing.

“I was pessimistic at first,” he said. “You hear so many bad things about people who exploit veterans. But she invited me to a spring gobbler event in May and I thought what the heck. It turned out to be the best five days of my life.”

Without the Hunts for Healing, Rupert said, he would not be here today.

Another speaker was U.S. Army veteran Jeff Swire of Noxen, who referred to Hunts for Healing as “A new army. An army of volunteers.”

Today’s veterans face multiple challenges, he said, and organizations such as Hunts for Healing are helping them meet those challenges.

“There’s so much bad out there, but there’s so much good,” he said.

Through Hunts for Healing, Swire is forming “Patriots Cove,” in Noxen, a group promoting trout fishing as another way for veterans to get together and help each other.