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Former Olympic first responder hosts fundraiser in Hope for camp for people with PTSD

Hope Standard - 1/26/2019

When Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life after crashing in the final turn of the course during a training session prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Terrance Kosikar's life took a turn for the worse.

A first responder to the scene of the accident, Kosikar was immediately affected by what he saw, but says he didn't have the proper tools to help him navigate the very traumatic experience.

"My first suicide attempt was an hour after the Olympics was over," he explained from Germany via a video call. "I was never trained on how to deal with my own emotional impact after I couldn't help save the patient's life."

From there, Kosikar says he spiralled down a very long, and dark rabbit hole, and when he finally got to the bottom, he was jobless, homeless, had no family left, and was addicted to opioids his doctors had prescribed him when he first began trying to seek help for what he later learned was post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Making a final attempt to pick himself up and out of the gutter, Kosikar says he ended up at a cabin in the backwoods north of Vancouver, and it was there that he found his footings to the path to recovery through an old tractor tire.

"I come out of my (drugged state) at the cabin … and I'm out fishing in a hot spot (and see) a big, massive tractor tire on the river bank and have a UFC flashback. I'm going to be just like Georges St-Pierre and I'm going to flip this tire all over these mountains and show them all who's the boss!"

And while it wasn't as easy as he first thought it would be, after several attempts over the course of many days, Kosikar was successfully flipping that tire across the backcountry where he was staying, which he says began to heal him.

"I'm out there for 18 hours a day and I'm flipping this (400-pound) tire a kilometre every day. I'm sleeping again, I'm dreaming, I'm drug-free. I'm grateful for my life (again, and create a) list of people to forgive.

"I'm feeling so good … (I wonder) why isn't there any treatment centre (like this) where people are out in the (wilderness), so they can have that (healing) conversation with themselves but have to do the work (to heal)."

Which is how the idea of Camp My Way was created.

The idea was to provide a wilderness experience for first responders, their families, and anyone suffering with PTSD where they could address their issues in an instinctual way and begin the healing process, however that may look for them.

With no job or money to his name, Kosikar says he decided to apply the same method as he did with the tire to get the camp off the ground: just take it one step at a time and believe in what you're trying to do. So for five months, nearly all day long, seven days a week, Kosikar worked on spreading word of his camp. Within less than six months he'd raised nearly $75,000 and was able to organize phase one of Camp My Way in 2015, which was a one-week camping experience for 16 first responders and their family members who were experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

It costs approximately $2,500 per camper per week to attend Camp My Way, but "they didn't spend a penny," said Kosikar. "People donated backpacks, hotel stays, food, grocery story (gift cards), everything we needed to run the camp was all donated by a bunch of amazing people.

This year, Kosikar is hosting a fundraising event in Hope because he would like to raise enough funds to send a local first responder and family member to Camp My Way. It may not necessarily be about treating PTSD, but giving people the tools to deal with it if it comes their way, either personally or through a family member.

The Camp My Way fundraiser will run from 3 til 6 p.m., on Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Hope Legion (344 Fort St.). With a homemade dinner served at 6, and Karaoke to follow, this event is by donation, with all proceeds from the draws and raffles donated to the camp.

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