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TC Patriot Game to Benefit Veteran 2 Veteran

TRAVERSE CITY – In its five years of existence, the annual Traverse City Patriot Game between Traverse City Central and West has been much more than just a crosstown rivalry. It’s placing the spotlight on veterans.

This year that spotlight is shining its light on the Traverse City branch of Veteran 2 Veteran – an organization that pairs veteran mentors with veterans returning from war and acclimating themselves to civilian life.

A committee of 10 students from Central and West interviewed veteran-based charities and selected Veteran 2 Veteran as the recipient of this year’s proceeds.

"All of the groups were incredible, what they do and what they’re trying to work at is just something that blew all of us away,” West senior Dani Priest said. “We ended up going with Veteran 2 Veteran because that group really gives back to our intimate community."

Friday’s game presents a great opportunity for the two-year old organization to introduce itself to the Traverse City area – and its population of veterans.

"We really need to get the word out in the community, about what we’re doing, how we help, who can become involved, and how to become involved,” said Veteran 2 Veteran director Karen Fulkerson.

"The notoriety and the publicity at this big football game,” added Veteran 2 Veteran mentor Ron Smith. “We expect to sign up a lot of mentors who have never heard of us before. And now we’re on the map, so to speak."

Smith is the founder of the organization and serves as a mentor to David Butcher. Though hesitant to reach out to Veteran 2 Veteran, Butcher is grateful for the charity’s work.

"I thought about it for about a week, and then I said, ‘you know what, I’ve got to do this. Say yes, let’s do this,’ and if I don’t like it, I don’t like it, but it turns out that I love it,” Butcher said. “It’s been a huge success for me so far."

Thanks to Smith, Butcher feels right at home in the Cherry Capital.

"Knowing somebody that’s here, like Ron… He’s a vet, so he talks like me, we have the same kind of lingo, we understand what we’re talking about, and it’s just phenomenal,” he said.

"Do we look for huge miracles to happen? No. But you can see changes, you can see just that simple "thank you" is worth all the time, or any time that I put into it,” added Smith. “We don’t do it for the recognition, that’s for sure. We do it to make a difference in someone’s life."

To learn more about Veteran 2 Veteran, visit .