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Operation Injured Soldiers,veterans,south lyon

The OIS Riders: An Admirable Endeavor

By Jim Duke, Contributing Writer

I recently became aware of an organization that honors and supports our nation’s veterans, specifically a division of that organization that’s dedicated to providing a opportunity to get out and enjoy a variety of fun activities. The organization is Operation Injured Soldiers, a 501(c)3 charity located in South Lyon, Michigan which provides recreational therapy for injured soldiers. Now in it’s 10th year, it is comprised of an all-volunteer board of directors, including their administrators.

As a charity, their major source of operating capital comes from fundraising events held statewide, and donations from supporting individuals and businesses, and according to the OIS Treasurer, an average of 93% of every dollar donated is applied to one or more of the veteran programs.

The therapy, as mentioned, is provided through some means of recreational activity and depending on the needs of the individual, the OIS is there to assist in getting the soldiers what they need. The recreation may be in the form of a hunting or fishing excursion, or maybe just going to a ball game. It may also be a bit more physical like playing hockey, baseball, or other such sporting activities. But it can also be a more rigorous activity such as riding motorcycles, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles, and that’s where the OIS Riders Division comes in.

Operation Injured Soldiers,veterans,south lyon
Entrance Sign at the Brave Hearts Estate.

I first met Jason Middleton, the Director of the OIS Riders at the Snowmobile USA Show in Novi, Michigan last November where we briefly discussed the possibility of joining in on one of their snowmobiling events. Since that time, I’ve done quite a bit of research into the organization and have had more communications with Mr. Middleton where I’ve learned that the OIS actually has a second facility, a vacation retreat of sorts, located in Pellston, MI. It is the Brave Hearts Estate, donated by an anonymous veteran on Veteran’s Day in 2014 with just one stipulation, that it be used strictly as a retreat and a place where veterans and their families can come for rest & relaxation so essential to the health and well being of our brave men and women warriors.

The Brave Hearts Estate, located in Emmet County just a couple of miles west of town at 4171 Ely Road in Pellston, sits on 238 acres of prime real estate which offers ideal hunting opportunities as well as many other outdoor recreational endeavors. It is managed by the all-volunteer OIS Board and is the assembly point for many OIS events including the OIS Rider activities. The building has eight bedrooms, many with enough beds to accommodate up to four or even six per room.

Operation Injured Soldiers,veterans,south lyon
Snowmobiles are provided for riders to have some winter fun.

There is three dining rooms with adequate seating and an expansive kitchen. Each of the three levels has a large living room and the lower level is a walk-out basement with three bedrooms, also has a living room and a full kitchen. There are no elevators in the house but that doesn’t mean it is not handicap accessible. There is a chairlift to give wheelchair bound veterans access to the third floor. The estate hosts two to three families each weekend free of charge with lodging, breakfast and a light dinner.

I asked how the OIS Rider Division of the organization came to be and Jason said he grew up racing motocross and has been an avid enthusiast of almost all motorized sports including ATV’s, snowmobiles and motorcycles. He says as a longtime volunteer of the OIS and seeing the events getting bigger and bigger with each passing year, he created the Riders Division as another outlet for veterans to enjoy the outdoors with scheduled and supervised rides, snowmobiles in the winter months and off-road vehicles in the warmer months. He says they view this as recreational therapy, and it gives everyone that participates a good feeling of accomplishment.

From an outsider’s point of view, this organization is doing a wonderful job of assisting injured servicemen, and their family members, along the road to rehabilitation. From a career veteran’s point of view, what they are doing
is priceless!

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