A veteran in Texas is making good use of leftover Christmas trees in his community.
U.S. Army veteran Jamie Willis started making canes for disabled veterans in 2016, after finding out about Free Canes for Veterans, an organization that gives canes to retired service members.
Willis, 50, left the army after serving for eight years and is now a 100 percent disabled veteran, completely unable to work. He said the cane that was originally given to him by Veterans Affairs was hard to use, and not the greatest quality.
Willis reached out to Free Canes for Veterans. When he found out they were out of canes, he learned how to make one out of a Christmas tree that had been stripped of its branches. The founder of the campaign, Oscar Morris, taught him.
This experience inspired Willis to open his own branch of Free Canes for Veterans in Central Texas, so that he could continue making canes for veterans in his area and beyond.
“When I successfully sat down and made my very first cane, I asked him if I could branch it off and start Cane for Veterans in Central Texas and he said he would love for me to do that,” Willis told CNN.
Morris was more than happy to have Willis join his cause, and he hopes that other veterans will be inspired to start branches of the organization. He said aside from Willis, five other vets have started making canes on their own.
“It would be a blessing to get the word out for more veterans to do this,” Morris said. “Each of these veterans were on my original list of 500 in 2015. It was the act of kindness and a piece of wood that was their inspiration.”
Since he learned the craft, Willis has made and shipped over 200 canes to veterans all over the world. He says the support from his community has been overwhelming.
“It’s been an outpouring of donations this year, more than I ever thought I would get,” Willis said. “Home Depot flooded me with trees, they’re sending me 400, and the rest of the community will be giving me about another 100 trees.”
The canes are all one-of-a-kind and have a unique, natural look. Willis finishes the canes with a shiny polish, and he engraves personal details on each one with the veteran�s title, rank and division.
Willis and Morris hope the canes give disabled vets a boost of confidence along with a token of gratitude for their service.
“We make our canes for veterans to look ‘cool’ while giving honor for their service.” – Oscar Morris
While Willis has been paying for most of the expenses for the canes out of pocket, he is accepted donations of trees, tools and sandpaper. You can reach out to Willis by email to find out how to donate locally: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Source: images & video Canes for Veterans Central Texas Facebook)