HilltopSecurities and DAWG Nation Honor Wounded Warriors
HilltopSecurities supports wounded warriors and hockey players—on and off the ice.
The U.S. doesn’t currently have a hockey facility that supports both disabled and able-bodied athletes. The DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity that helps people with and without disabilities gain confidence and independence by participating in ice hockey events—is working hard to change that and HilltopSecurities is proud to join the effort.
To help deliver on this mission, the foundation is currently in the process of financing and constructing a one-of-a-kind, three-sheet ice complex in Castle Pines, Colorado. When built, the rink will connect the surrounding communities with youth and adult programs and serve as the home of the Colorado Sled Hockey Clubs. The foundation also hopes the complex will be host to the USA Paralympic program as well as national and international sled hockey championships.
Providing Healing Support
DAWG Nation was founded in 2004 when a small group of adult recreation league hockey players launched the foundation to honor Jack Kelly, a teammate who passed away from a rare auto-immune disease, and to help his family both financially and personally in their time of need.
“I felt it was very important for those three daughters to be able to see their dad every week and then go and have something to eat for dinner,” said Martin Richardson, DAWG Nation president and CEO, in the documentary Play Hard, Play Fair, and Give Back—The DAWG Nation Story. “I told our players there’s going to be a hat in the middle of the room and it’s for this purpose. Lo and behold … $1,500 landed in that hat, so I knew we had a special group at that point.”
Since then, the program has provided over $2 million to individuals and families struggling with illness or battling life-threatening injuries in the Front Range hockey community.
There’s a strong coalition of U.S. military veterans who play both amateur and professional hockey, and DAWG Nation has helped support countless wounded warriors and their families.
HilltopSecurities’ Bill Vogelpohl and David Medanich were able to spend a few days with two of them, listening to their stories and fly fishing in the rivers of The Park Range—a mountain range in Jackson County, Colorado.
Fly Fishing the Headwaters of the North Platte
The annual DAWG Nation fly-fishing trip began on a Friday afternoon and stretched into Sunday, fishing the rivers of North Central Colorado and sharing stories at the Park Range Ranch, which is outfitted with a fully handicap accessible cabin built to accommodate the DAWG Nation hockey players.
Bill, David, and HilltopSecurities client Craig Sands hosted and guided the veterans on the fishing trip and around the Park Range Ranch. Also on the trip were Brandon Adam, a U.S. Army veteran who lost both legs above the knee when he was struck by a roadside explosive formed projectile in Iraq and Ralph DeQuebec, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who also lost both legs above the knee among other injuries in a bomb explosion during the last of his multiple combat tours in Afghanistan.
Despite their injuries, Brandon and Ralph are accomplished athletes. Brandon is a two-time silver medalist in skiing at the X-Games, a national sled-hockey champion with the Colorado Avalanche, and currently pursuing a position in sled hockey with the U.S. national team. Ralph is the captain of the Warrior Avalanche sled hockey team and served his country for a second time when he won the Gold Medal in the 2018 Paralympic Games.
If these seem like impressive men, it’s because they are. Their athleticism was on full display as they braved 50 mile-per-hour winds, scaled wood fences, traversed unforgiving terrain in wheelchair-equipped four wheelers, and crawled and hopped over rocks and high grass to reel in brown, rainbow, and cut-bow trout—all the while partaking in the kind of lively banter common on fishing trips.
“People sometimes treat individuals with disabilities a little differently, whether they mean to or not,” said Vogelpohl. “Brandon and Ralph don’t give you a chance to make that mistake. They’re both so positive and determined, it’s easy to see why they’re American heroes and accomplished athletes.”
“I may have gotten more out of this trip than Brandon or Ralph,” said Medanich. “It was kind of embarrassing when I thought about all the little things that bother me daily. These guys have so much more to deal with and I never heard a single complaint. It was a pleasure to spend time with them.”
A Community of Helping
Bill and David connected with DAWG Nation the way many people do—by hearing about the foundation’s good work from friends and family members who genuinely enjoy helping others going through hard times.
In this case, the connection was Bill’s cousin, John Kukral, who owns the Park Range Ranch and has been an avid supporter of the foundation since he hired Nigel Richardson to be the head chef at the ranch, and who also happens to be Martin’s brother.
In addition to outfitting a cabin to provide lodging for the DAWG Nation family and its many fund recipients, John, his wife Karen (who also serves as a board member to the foundation), Nigel, and the rest of the Park Range staff host the foundation’s various fundraisers throughout the year.
Naturally, good deeds don’t go unnoticed. When Bill, David, and HilltopSecurities Regional Managing Director Jason Simmons caught wind the foundation was attempting to raise funds to construct its ice complex, they offered to help them with the financing.
But the foundation’s annual fishing trip wasn’t about business—it was a way to honor and get to know two veterans who put their lives on the line for the country they love.
“Ralph said to me that it was a privilege for him to lose his legs in service of his country. While it’s hard to wrap your head around that degree of selflessness, it’s not hard to respect it,” said Vogelpohl. “It was a humbling experience and an honor to spend some time with two men who proudly served our country as soldiers and who now do so as athletes.”
More than that, Bill and David hope that the trip and their work with DAWG Nation will help bring attention to the foundation so it can keep helping wounded warriors, local ice hockey players, and their families in times of crisis.
“The foundation is supporting families when they need it the most and giving people an opportunity to continue to play a game they love,” said Medanich. “The way they’ve banded together and supported each other is humbling and inspiring.”
Help DAWG Nation Continue its Mission
To help DAWG Nation continue providing resources and acts of kindness to hockey players, wounded veterans, and their families, visit the foundation’s website. There, you can choose to partner with the foundation by signing up for an annual or monthly gift or donate directly to fund recipients.