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How Polaris and NFL Great Joe Thomas Are Teaming Up to Get More Veterans Out Hunting

Here is how you can win a Polaris Ranger and help our vets at the same time.

Looking for a way to give back to our nation's veterans this November? Starting with this Veterans Day, Polaris RANGER has teamed up with retired future NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman and hunter Joe Thomas to start up a pretty cool fundraising program that helps get veterans back in the woods.

They are raising funds for the non-profit LEEK Hunting & Mountain Preserve in northern Pennsylvania. The 400-acre unfenced property was founded 11 years ago by retired serviceman Ed Fisher. LEEK has been set aside specifically for veterans and their families to go hunting in a therapeutic environment that only the great outdoors can provide. Operations at the outdoor retreat run off the blood, sweat, and tears of a dedicated group of volunteers.

This year LEEK will take United States veterans on hunts for deer, bear, and pheasants. The preserve makes use of special blinds and equipment to facilitate all hunters, regardless of their current physical status.

Some of the equipment includes special off-road vehicles like a tracked wheelchair. This helps hunters like Vietnam Veteran Pat Skelly, who lost his legs in an RPG attack in Vietnam in 1969, get to his hunting spot.

Polaris and Thomas are hoping their efforts will raise $100,000 to expand lodging and conference areas at LEEK's Dunham Hall. It will give service men and women additional places to stay and dine during their outdoor adventures. This particular hall was named for U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Jason Lee Dunham, who made the ultimate sacrifice to save some fellow soldiers in Iraq in 2004. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

To kick off the hunt campaign, Thomas was invited by Polaris to join the "RANGER Country Heroes Hunt" at LEEK back in October. The hunt included veterans from Vietnam and more modern conflicts such as Afghanistan.

"It was special just seeing those men that had served our country in the Army and Marine Corps just get the opportunity to get out there and forget about whatever issues they had and just enjoy the great outdoors and each other's company," Thomas told us over the phone. "I think that can be a huge benefit as they rehab both mental and physical injuries."

The football great spent the weekend with nine veterans. Thomas played over 10,000 consecutive snaps with the Cleveland Browns, and has always tried to use his platform as a pro athlete to support the troops. He made several overseas visits during his playing career. Now that he's retired, this hunt was another opportunity to continue that work and combine it with his love for the outdoors.

"As a non-veteran to be able to get that invite and spend time with those guys and hear their stories and hear how LEEK helps in their recovery process, it was really cool," Thomas said. "And to hear those guys who knew who I was and they knew about my career, it was special. As a pro athlete, being able to give back and hopefully positively change people's lives in our own little way is really cool."

Thomas was fortunate enough to harvest a nice buck during the hunt, but he was just as eager to talk about the friendships he made during the RANGER Country Heroes Hunt. He connected with his newfound friends not just over a combined interest in outdoor recreation, but also over a mutual love of professional football.

"I think they all claimed to be Browns fans," Thomas said with a laugh. "There were a couple guys from Ohio which was pretty neat."

"That's the cool thing about visiting with military. They always love talking about NFL football stuff," Thomas said. "Pro athletes and NFL players, it's so easy for us to give back because by and large, those guys are big NFL fans and they love having that distraction from everyday life."

Polaris Industries, Inc. has already donated the first $25,000 for the outdoor retreat. They are also donating three brand-new RANGER XP 1000 side-by-sides. These off-road vehicles will help them transport equipment and visiting sportsmen around the property even easier. One of the RANGERS has been specially retrofitted for use by disabled veterans.

"No one understands sacrifice and true grit more than our servicemen and servicewomen," Polaris' Vice President of Off-Road Marketing Kyle Duea said in a press release. "This year, as an extension of RANGER Country, we wanted to honor those men and women who have provided us with the freedoms we all enjoy in this great country. LEEK's mission to encourage wounded heroes aligns perfectly with the values of RANGER Country, and we are calling on our owner community to join us in supporting them."

Thomas agreed that the cause LEEK is working on is something special.

"I love being outdoors. I love spending time with our nation's veterans and to be able to see the impact LEEK has on our veteran's community and to help a bunch of guys like it does is really unique in my opinion," Thomas said. "And that's why they're so deserving of your donation."

To help spread the word even more, Polaris is entering everyone who donates into a chance to win a 2019 RANGER XP 1000. You can help by texting to 512-920-5521 or visiting their donation page at donate.onecause.com/heroeshunt.