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Higher Ground Rolls Out the Laughs so that Veterans Can Laugh
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Hayes MacArthur described how he had trouble getting used to the flyfishing term “working the hole” after moving to Sun Valley. And he noted what had been a dynamite storage facility is now Business as Usual—a metaphor for marriage.
   
Thursday, April 25, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Hayes MacArthur looked out at a sell-out crowd in The Argyros and told about his experience living in Sun Valley since moving here from California in 2020 with his wife and their two children.

“I still have to pretend I recycle and it’s amazing how many people ask what the Trailing of the Sheep is,” he said. “I went hunting for 10 days in the backcountry and I didn’t see a single elk. I came home and there’s 10 in my yard—they have squatters’ rights here. And, the only way to find affordable housing here is to dress in fur and head to the animal shelter.”

MacArthur, a writer and actor, was among those who provided the entertainment at Higher Ground’s first ever Comedy & Concert Night. Like many in the audience, he was drawn to the nonprofit organization because of the therapeutic recreation they provide to returning veterans and local youth with health challenges.

 
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Donna Beaux shows off a chairlift decorated by Sage School students as part of a fundraiser for Higher Ground.
 

Now a volunteer adaptive ski instructor and board member of Higher Ground, he was only too happy to lend his talent for comedy to the organization for a night of fundraising.

“Higher Ground introduces veterans to amazing cool stuff they’d never get to do without the organization,” he told the audience.

Comedian Bryson Banks took his turn at the mic as a recipient of Higher Ground’s therapeutic work ahead of a performance by country music group Zachariah & the Lobos Riders.

“I joined the armed services as an infantry rifleman, and I was promoted to sniper,” he told the audience. “I was like the worst sniper ever because I’m allergic to all the bushes. Every time I hit them, I started sneezing--I’m sneezing in all the bushes.”

 
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Cheyanne Stopol, adaptive sports coordinator, found a unique way to broadcast that she was selling raffle tickets at the event
 

Seriously, he added, “We’re not taught how to reintegrate into society. I’ve read almost every self-improvement book, but they don’t offer what this organization does. It’s an amazing organization.”

Higher Ground greeted attendees with a variety of wines and beers tempered by various desserts, including a tiny mousse cups and chocolate chip cookies baked by many of the young people who attend the organization’s ski camps and summer camps.

Higher Ground takes veterans hand cycling and fly-fishing on local trails and rivers, in addition to indoor climbing, golf and bocce. And some of its programs go beyond Idaho, taking people bass fishing in Texas, sea kayaking in Laguna, Calif., scuba diving at Catalina Island, surfing at Palo Alto and ice climbing in Montana.

Recently, it began offering therapeutic activities for first responders, taking them down the Lower Salmon River in inflatable kayaks and rafting the Main Salmon River.

 
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Comedian Bryson Banks took his turn on stage.
 

“We don’t know any other program that does that. We love them,” said said Lana Cheng.

“Higher Ground is change. We change lives,” added Board Chair Jeff Rust.

Yuri Davydov, a counselor at Barbara Morgan Elementary School in McCall, has worked as a counselor with Higher Ground on its veterans’ camps.

“I love how they pay for veterans to come to help them to become their dynamic best selves,” said Davydov, who is one of 212 volunteers who assisted Higher Ground this past year. “Sometimes there’s incredible adversity, and they may not have connected with someone new in a long time. We take them rock climbing, we teach them the mindfulness of casting, and they get to experiences the beauty of the mountains and the outdoors. We become a tight knit group and, when they return home, we encourage them to check in with their local flyfishing shops because that will keep the social thing going.”

 
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Laura Rose-Lewis and Scott and Elizabeth Lucas were among those attending Higher Ground’s Comedy & Concert night.
 

To learn more, visit https://www.highergroundusa.org/. Or, call 208-720-7578.

LEADERSHIP SHIFTS

Kate Dobbie, who has been Higher Ground's executive director for 12 years, is assuming a new position as development director. A search committee has been formed to identify a new executive director.

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