by Lori Pace - Thursday, February 23, 2023
Freedom Hunters is a military outreach nonprofit dedicated to honoring those who serve and protect American freedom. Its purpose is to salute the noble work of courageous men and women of our armed forces and reflect the outdoor community’s appreciation for our troops by taking select active duty and combat veterans, families of fallen heroes, children of the deployed, and those wounded or injured on outdoor adventures. Speaking with Freedom Hunters founder Anthony Pace provides valuable insight into the story behind the nonprofit. I should know, because I am proud to say Anthony is my husband—I get to witness the organization’s far-reaching impact firsthand.
Anthony founded Freedom Hunters in 2005 with the desire to say, “Thank you for your service.” The organization’s name came from two elements, the first being the word “freedom.” At the time Anthony was establishing the group, he noted how the military used the word when naming its operations—Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Then he reflected on how outdoor adventures give our military community an avenue to hunt for personal freedom from the scars of battle and chose the word “hunters.” Our family has deep-rooted hunting traditions, and he knew there could be interplay between expressions of gratitude and the great outdoors.
The mission of Freedom Hunters is to honor veterans of all eras and their families. We have had soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam to post-9/11 veterans and current active-duty warriors. As Anthony shares, “The battlegrounds they served in are different, but the struggles against their demons are similar. Listening to them helping one another down the path is an unexpected healing factor that is amazing to witness.”
Along with dozens of nationwide volunteers, landowners and individual donors and corporate partnerships over the past 18 years, Freedom Hunters has served more than 11,500 individuals in the military community with hunting, fishing and shooting sports opportunities across the country and from Canada to Africa. For just one example of the tremendous corporate partnerships Freedom Hunters has fostered, in 2015 it partnered with Benelli USA to launch the inaugural Benelli USA Invitational sporting clays event benefitting Freedom Hunters. Benelli USA has supported the organization’s efforts to provide select active duty and combat veterans, their families and Gold Star family members with therapeutic and often life-changing outdoor adventures ever since. The 7th Annual Benelli USA Invitational at the Prince George's Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Md., in October 2022 drew 152 shooters and 57 corporate sponsors. Combined with help from on-site volunteers and an online fundraising auction, it generated $132,000 for Freedom Hunters’ ongoing mission to positively impact the lives of current and former military service members and their families—and especially at-risk veterans who are dealing with serious life challenges.
As a result of Freedom Hunters’ many supporters and volunteers, gratitude is shown, healing takes place and a universal sense of accomplishment is earned among all involved. It is not only those the organization serves who benefit from time spent afield as our volunteers also grow through the experience of giving back. They walk away from an event or outing knowing their valuable time was invested in bettering the life of another. In talking about why their Freedom Hunters experience is often life-changing warriors often say, “It’s the natural healing that takes place outdoors with other veterans.” Our organization fosters the healing among all of those involved, which would not be possible without the many wonderful people who donate to the cause.
“Individual donors are essential to the Freedom Hunters mission,” explains Anthony. “They are the lifeblood of Freedom Hunters, whether it be financial resources, land opportunities or time behind the scenes. We cannot do it alone.”
Over time the organization has evolved as new volunteers bring their passion into the mix. Many shape their love and support into what becomes life-altering outdoor adventures while others offer their skills in areas such as marketing, fundraising event coordination and product acquisition to further the organization’s reach. Freedom Hunters continues to expand with the supreme desire to serve more veterans every year. With this mission in mind, Anthony continuously seeks volunteers with the time and talent to help Freedom Hunters grow.
Ever grateful, Anthony recognizes the invaluable support of his family since Freedom Hunters' conception. Starting a nonprofit is an enormous investment of time. We had three children, the youngest being twins who had just turned 2 years old, when he launched Freedom Hunters. Anthony worked full-time and overtime, saving all his vacation time for trade shows to network and grow Freedom Hunters. As his wife and a schoolteacher, I focused on supporting Anthony while juggling work and the home front, caring for our children, who I am proud to say understand the importance of American freedom and of giving back.
“My wife single-handedly juggled a lot of life to afford me the time needed to develop Freedom Hunters,” said Anthony. He recalled the support of all his children, especially his son Nicholas. “Since he was old enough, he has come to trade shows with me, volunteered at events, and organized and sorted my gear behind the scenes.”
“At a young age, I learned of the sacrifice and value of freedom,” said Nicholas. “So many high-ranking warriors and countless heroes have poured into my life, making me the patriot I am today. I am a better person because of the life they chose to live and the sacrifices every one of them has made. I am grateful for what my dad does and the part I get to play in it all.”
I would support Anthony all over again to do what he has accomplished through Freedom Hunters. The many lives that have been positively impacted, given renewed hope and purpose, and a road toward healing is worth every sacrifice we made as a family for the freedom these warriors have given us.”
Research suggests that 22 veterans a day commit suicide due to unseen wounds from battle. Freedom Hunters is a unique organization connecting our veterans to healing opportunities outdoors. It is supported by an ever-growing number of volunteers, donors and corporate sponsors. For more information or to get involved, please contact Anthony Pace at [email protected] or visit FreedomHunters.org.
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