OIG is proud to highlight the philanthropic initiatives of our client Staurolite Foundation, Angel Fire, NM, assisting people in need from India to our own backyard.
Bridging the gap to provide a better understanding of how he dedicates his time to widespread projects from funding a school in India to supporting wounded U.S. warriors with hunting expositions, Foundation Founder Mike Smith simply says, “I’m just an outdoors kind of guy.”
And it is outdoors where he can be always found. A former public school superintendent, Mike divides his time between farming and ranching and traveling in the U.S. and abroad for Staroulite outreach initiatives.
Each spring, Mike is joined by members of the Oakwood Church of New Braunfels, Texas, for annual visits to India, where there is a school located in the outskirts of Kolkata. The school serves 100 of the more than 1,000 school age children in this destitute slum, there are many such slums with no educational opportunities for children.
For eight months a year, he pursues a passion here in the U.S. where he focuses efforts on elk hunting trips for immobile U.S. veterans, escorting them through mountainous areas of New Mexico on ATVs.
Mike is driven by caring Christian beliefs he’s learned since he was 7 years old as well as a deep desire for others to be able to experience the things he enjoys.
With hunts spread over three months each fall, Mike and his partners serve men who represent our current generation of wounded soldiers, having recently served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. During a past trip in October, two of the participating veterans were confined to wheelchairs, while another was extremely mobile with two prosthetic legs. In conversations, Mike learned that these men never imagined that they could again do something like hunting.
On a trip taken during a previous year, a veteran who had once confined himself to his home opened up over the course of the hunt. Mike says of all he sees emerge transformed, “We take no credit, the change is just miraculous.”
For four men to hunt in wheelchairs typically takes between 8 and 12 people who volunteer their time. It’s often men who were wounded in previous wars helping with the men who were recently wounded. Says Mike, “I think we get as much out of it as everybody else does.” In addition to enjoying the hunting sport, Mike has seen the soldiers taking this opportunity to talk amongst themselves, revealing things to their brothers that they can’t reveal to anyone else. “It’s an amazing growth experience for them,” says Mike, proudly realizing the contribution the volunteers are making. “These are folks that have sacrificed a lot for you and me.”
Mike and his team of volunteers provide for the veterans, asking for nothing in return. An annual golf tournament, other foundations and private donations help cover the cost. “Ripples reach shores and involve more people in what we’re doing,” says Mike.
The application process begins in the spring involving other foundations like Freedom Care Warriors of Graham, TX, and Horses for Heroes in Santa Fe, NM, as well as referrals from past hunters, and a retired marine colonel who is affiliated with a veterans’ medical facility in San Antonio. While the selection process is done by a lottery, Mike believes there is divine intervention at work. “I know we end up serving the ones who need it the most,” he says. This 4th year of the hunts will bring the total number of participants to just over 30.
“What we do is not for everybody,” says Mike. Elk are hunted with bows and arrows in September and rifles in October, November, and January, over the course of a few days spent in the woods. The teams of hunters generally spend a week, camping out in tents or staying in private donated facilities. During one past trip, Mike asked a former army captain asking for his thoughts, “I’ve got no words,” he replied. “Our trips refresh the soul and give renewed faith and outlook,” says Mike.
He hopes to expand the number of trips next year to include hunts in Texas, but knows that they can only grow with more help. The Foundation is 100% donation funded not-for-profit organization with 98 percent of the money raised funneled into the outreach activities. All of the responsibilities involve volunteers.
Readers who are interested in supporting Staurolight Foundation can make a contribution through Paypal at its website http://www.staurolitefoundation.com/.