AUBURN — The inaugural Vets in the Valley event at Lost Valley attracted dozens of veterans and active-duty service people and their families who were offered free lift tickets and ski rentals.

They also were given a chance to connect with an array of resources including employment opportunities and mental health supports.

“We got people outside, and that’s what it’s all about,” said John Herrick, general manager of Lost Valley, who planned the event and is himself a veteran of 29 years in the U.S. Air Force.

The event was part of the ski area’s broader effort to be a community hub and to give back to groups including veterans and nonprofit organizations. Herrick said Lost Valley specializes in being a place where adults and children learn how to ski and it is in a phase of regaining a positive appeal across the community.

“There are 19 volunteer organizations here today, so the point is to not only get veterans in tune with the volunteer organizations but also the general public, how they can help,” Herrick said, noting that many veterans came out to ski, but the crowd was mainly made up of regular customers.

“I just wanted to come out, have a good time, and show some support,” said Dalton Marshall, 19, of Newport, who is in the National Guard and is preparing to go to flight school.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, stopped by to lend his support.

“It’s not just the skiing,” Golden said. “It’s connecting Veterans with resources on a Saturday afternoon that they might not be able to access during the week when they’re working a busy schedule. That’s what makes this kind of thing important.”

One group put up life-size cutouts of soldiers throughout the ski lodge, each representing a Maine veteran who was lost to suicide.

“We started the Silhouette Project to make sure people knew this is happening, to make people aware, and to team up with organizations like those here today so they can make the connections with other veterans, because I think that’s one of the things my son was missing” said Linda Lajoie, co-founder of the Silhouette Project. She helped start the project when her son, who served in Afghanistan, died by suicide at 25 years old.

Veterans were also treated to free appetizers and music inside the ski lodge.

“It’s been fun. I used to come here when I was a kid,” said Jeff Lamoreau, who has been retired from the Army for three years and served in Iraq in the 1990s and in Bosnia, among other places. He brought his two sons to Lost Valley and one got on skis for the first time.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, left, speaks with David Richmond, acting director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, at the Vets in the Valley event at Lost Valley in Auburn on Saturday. (Jenny Johnson photo)

Dalton Marshall, 19, of Newport, is in the National Guard and on his way to flight school. He participated in free skiing for veterans, active service people and their families at Lost Valley in Auburn on Saturday. (Jenny Johnson photo)


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