Redwood Games raise $75K for vets with PTSD

Redwood Logistics employees competing in tug-of-war. ( Photo: Redwood Logistics )

Redwood Logistics, a leading brokerage and 3PL based in Chicago, raised $75,000 for the charity Heroes and Horses at the 6th annual Redwood Games last Thursday. The Redwood Games exemplify what Redwood COO Tim Zelasko calls Redwood’s “work hard, play hard” culture and the innate competitiveness of its employees. FreightWaves spoke to Zelasko by phone.

“We wanted to do something different beyond happy hours and bowling and make a way to compete outside of the normal daily competitions, get everyone out of the office and do something fun and healthy. We’ve paired up with charities for the past four years,” said Zelasko.

Here’s how the Redwood Games work: this year there were sixteen teams manned by a total of 320 Redwood employees. For a month prior to the Games, the teams compete in the first event, which is to raise money for the charity designated as the beneficiary of this year’s Games. 

“We’ve done a lot of stuff with law enforcement and the military over the years, and those experiences brought us closer to a former Navy SEAL who gives speeches for our sales groups and our newer carrier reps, and talks about overcoming obstacles,” said Zelasko. “One of his friends from BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training], Micah Fink, had been struggling and kind of lost his purpose. He dropped everything he was doing and started buying up land in Montana.”

Fink eventually founded Heroes and Horses, a nonprofit charity for which he stills serves as the CEO. According to the organization’s mission statement, “Heroes and Horse exists to redefine the relationship between challenge and purpose, by reintegrating combat veterans through an innovative, comprehensive and effective process that uses the wilderness, the horse/human connection, and a proven leadership model.” Heroes and Horses created a three phase reintegration and healing program that begins with a five day horsemanship camp in Montana, then a ten day horse pack expedition, and culminates in more sustained work with wilderness outfitters or cattle ranches. 

“Heroes and Horses partners up people who are struggling with animals, some of them are even wild stallions, and they go on a journey together. It’s a pretty rigorous training for classes of 20 people, and they go on a tour with the horses through the wild. It has a big impact on the veterans that are suffering from PTSD,” said Zelasko. Zelasko said that everyone at Redwood was inspired by the organization’s story.

“You could see the people rallying around the cause; they were quite affected by the speech,” Zelasko said. “We get to do stuff like the Redwood Games because of what our vets did for us.”

How did the teams raise money? Some put on taco bars for their coworkers, sold root beer floats, and hosted trivia nights at the bar downstairs, The Wood. One Redwood employee donated his car, a 2008 Volkswagen, for a raffle and sold tickets. Another Redwood broker, Dillon Murphy, had been growing his hair out for four years. He teamed up with Pantene, which has a program building wigs for cancer survivors, and raised $4,100 for Heroes and Horses.

The Redwood Games teams raised $45,000, and the company chipped in an additional $30,000. According to the Heroes and Horses website, it costs about $2,400 to properly care for one of their horses for an entire year. After the close of the fundraising, the teams had five more events to compete in: an eating contest, a scavenger hunt, an elimination round of jousting, tug of war, and a final champion’s joust. For those events, Redwood bussed everyone out to Montrose Beach, on Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Park District.

 Jousting! ( Photo: Redwood Logistics )
Jousting! ( Photo: Redwood Logistics )

Team members who took home first place received a $100 gift card, a day of paid vacation, and a free party including food and drinks at The Wood, paid for by Redwood. Most importantly, they earned a year’s worth of bragging rights at the hyper-competitive company. Second-place team members got a $50 gift card and a half day of paid vacation, while third-place team members won a $50 gift card.

 Redwood employees celebrate at the close of the Games. ( Photo: Redwood Logistics )
Redwood employees celebrate at the close of the Games. ( Photo: Redwood Logistics )

During and after the games, the competitors (responsibly) enjoyed adult beverages. A multi-talented member of Redwood’s intermodal department named DJ Boss entertained his colleagues with a set, and then DJ White Shadow, who produced the Lady Gaga albums Born this Way and Artpop, arrived to take the party to the next level. 

According to Heroes and Horses’ COO Rick Franco, who attended this year’s Redwood Games, the Games are the largest fundraiser ever to benefit the organization. 

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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.