On September 25th, over 120 veteran hikers and dedicated volunteers gathered in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida to hike for the Irreverent Warrior cause - prevent Veteran suicide through connection, camaraderie, and humor.
VET Tv is the proud National Sponsor for Irreverent Warriors in 2021. In addition to a $25,000 donation matching initiative, every ticket to an IW Silkies Hike comes with a free month subscription to VET Tv. REDEEM yours using code 2021FTWALTON.
The hike officially kicked off Saturday morning at The Island Hotel by RL - but the camaraderie and celebration began long before that at the Meet and Greet Friday night. The Aruba Ballroom provided a free catered meal for the entire hike, and everyone wore their best Hawaiian gear to talk, dance, sing. and hang for a few hours before being sent to get some rest. It was a great beginning to a better day.
Once we kicked off, hikers got to experience (and be overwhelmed with welcome) by three amazing local restaurants who all donated delicious food and drinks to every hiker that came through. G.I Jade Tiki Bar & Bistro - owned by Luisa Garcia and her veteran son Chris - whipped up some award-winning home-smoked BBQ that the hike couldn't get enough of. AJ's on the Bayou had tacos waiting on arrival - in an air-conditioned space at that, which was a welcome retreat from the Florida heat for a few hours. Our final stop was at KC's Sandbar & Grill, one of the most famous local restaurants in town. The owners and staff had the entire place decked out in military decorations, and their hospitality was unmatched. A huge shout out to all three of these local staples for their extremely generous support.
Between the bigger stops, hikers got to enjoy the gorgeous Ft. Walton Beaches and scenery, like a quick water break in Chester Pruitt Park. By the end of the day, everyone was almost too tired for the afterparty... emphasis on almost. We headed back to The Island for raffles, prizes, and a relaxing evening on one of the best beaches you'll ever find.
"I never could have imagined how much I needed this."
The mission of every IW hike is the same – prevent veteran suicide by bringing vets together with humor and camaraderie. This hike was the perfect representation of that mission.
The motto of the day had to be "I didn't know I needed this until now." There were a lot of first time hikers at this event, and more than a few were approaching coordinators throughout the day expressing how they had no idea what they were missing. Some had known about Irreverent Warriors for a while - but admitted they didn't quite understand the impact until they experienced it. That's why we do what we do.
Thank you to all the local businesses and individuals who provided generous donations, hosted us for stops along the hike, or were there with us at step-off to support the cause!
All three of our local primary stops generously provided free food and water for the entire hike - and welcomed us with open arms. A huge shout out to all three of these local staples for their immense support.
G.I. Jade Tiki Bar & Bistro
AJ's on the Bayou
KC's Sandbar and Grill
A huge shoutout to Publix in Ft Walton Beach for their generous donation of drinks and snacks for hikers.
The Ft. Walton Police Department had a military support-themed vehicle accompanying us throughout the day to assist with road crossings and helping the hike safely navigate the city. Special thanks for the local support!
Sponsors & Donors
Veteran Television (VET Tv) - our National Presenting Sponsor this year who donated Free Silkies to giveaway at the hike, and handed out a free month of VET Tv (seriously, did you redeem yours yet?? 2021FTWALTON to every hiker.
EOD Warrior Foundation
The Island Hotel by RL
Step One Automotive
Helios Defense Solutions
All American Realty
Veteran's Landing Group
KC's Sandbar and Grill
Harry T's Lighthouse
Landsharks Pizza Company
All Pro Irrigation Solutions
Who Made it Possible
Nate McDonald - Lead Coordinator
Britt Zicarelli - Lead Volunteer Coordinator
JOIN THE DEBAUCHERY
We're planning even bigger and better things for the Ft. Walton Beach hike next year. If you're looking to get involved, reach out via the IW- Ft. Walton Be Facebook page, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're looking for more hikes to attend this year (we certainly wouldn't blame you) you can find events in your area on the Irreverent Warriors website.
97% of the proceeds we raise at Irreverent Warriors goes directly to our mission - prevent Veteran suicide through connection, camaraderie, and humor. We're not into spreading awareness - we're into making a difference.
One Shared MissionVET Tv is the proud National Sponsor for Irreverent Warriors in 2021. In addition to a $25,000 donation matching initiative, every ticket to an IW Silkies Hike comes with a free month subscription to VET Tv.
***Blog Photo Credit*** Most blog photos are pulled from the IW- Destin/Ft. Walton Beach Facebook Page and are contributed by hikers and attendees of the event that are happy to share their photos. These photos in particular - special thanks to Eileen Nix and Nate McDonald! Thank you for sharing, guys!