Wild Bear Vets 2024

A programme that provided outdoor skills, mentoring and recuperation to Ukraine’s combat medics and injured veterans in the Canadian wilderness

Our Wild Bear Vets 2024 programme brought six injured Ukrainian men and women soldiers and combat medics to the lodge for 10 days and offered them outdoor skills, training, mentoring and recuperation.

The veterans and medics, all of whom returned to Ukraine when the programme was over, committed to helping other injured veterans by setting up or helping to organise wilderness programmes back in their home country.

Some of the participants in Wild Bear Vets 2024 are already organising grassroots veterans wilderness programmes in Ukraine.

Other participants were keen to start new veterans programmes that offer nature and wilderness activities in areas where they do not already exist. Wild Bear Vets will support them in their plans and, where possible, provide seed funding.

The numbers of dead and wounded are classified, but there are estimated to be at least 100,000 injured soldiers in Ukraine, and there may be many more. Many are poorly supported when they return home.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of time spent in nature and pursuing outdoor activities for those suffering physical and mental trauma.

Julius Strauss and Kim Reczek, who co-ran the programme, have travelled to Ukraine a number of times to meet wounded veterans, medics and those who are helping them recover.

This programme was run in association with the Mindy Foundation, a Kyiv-based charity that helps veterans with physical and mental therapy and prosthetics.

Wild Bear Vets 2024 was funded entirely by Wild Bear Lodge, private donors and former guests.

To read our write-up in the Globe & Mail click here.