BREMERTON — Left Right Straight started out as a phrase used by the nonprofit’s founder, Sean Delaire, and his friends as they left for an adventure to take their minds off things. They’d head out with no clear idea of where they were going.
Delaire and his friend Rusty Kelly used longboarding as a way to blow off steam and get away from base. They’d explore Southern California, leaving base while playing a game. When they reached a crossroads, one of them would yell to the other, “Left right straight.” The other would answer with a direction, and they’d go that way.
According to the published history of the organization, “It usually ended in getting lost. But through becoming lost, they found some of the greatest memories they have. Through those memories and adventures, this simple game soon became a way of life for them.”
But a few years ago, the loss of a friend brought issue of veteran suicide home to Delaire. Hearing the statistic of 22 veteran suicide a day (according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs) is sobering enough; facing it firsthand is harder.
So in 2013, Delaire started his 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization aimed at raising awareness and preventing veteran suicide, naming it after the old game turned way of life, Left Right Straight.
“If it can help us … it can help other people,” Delaire said.
Now a few years into the new adventure, they’re working on how to best grow the organization to help as many people as possible. So on March 6, Delaire hosted a community involvement meeting to not only share what their immediate future and longer-term goals are, but to hear from the community about what they’d like to see, and to share how that community can get involved and help.
With the tagline “Adventure for veteran’s sake,” it’s clear their central focus is adventures.
In the past they’ve had ruck marches and backpacking trips and meet ups, and whatever else came up, but now they’re really focusing. Backpacking trips are their main adventure, but they’re also working on planning a motorcycle ride; Septemberfest, an “Everything Kitsap Fest” involving beer and food stands and more; and helping with Kitsap Rescue Missions Fun Run, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless and veteran populations.
There’ll also be classes and workshops to help with the practicalities of adventuring. Delaire said that before backpacking trips, there’ll be a workshop helping people learn what to bring, how to pack a backpack to best distribute the weight and more. The goal isn’t just to have an adventure, but to prepare people to have a lot of adventures.
In the future, Delaire said they want to expand the scope of their adventures, exploring not only the Puget Sound area, but to have overnight trips.
Delaire said they’re working to develop a workforce program, which will help veterans gain the skills they need to get a job, such as resume and cover letter writing. It will also involve working with local businesses to get notified of job openings early.
LRS is also working on renovating a building to be their new headquarters. The project was stalled due to winter weather, but Delaire said it should be back on track soon. After renovations are complete, the headquarters will include a recreation and lounge area, as well as a conference room for workshops and the like.
“The whole goal is to have a centralized location,” Delaire said, “where vets can get away from it all.”
There’ll be a kitchen as well, with the hopes of serving the community shared meals, including on the holidays.
In the past, LRS has organized more community-minded projects as well. Providing groceries for those who need a bit of help, buying Christmas presents, rebuilding a badly damaged roof and more.
“We want to not only build the veteran community, but the whole community,” Delaire said.
He added another goal, as well: he wants LRS to advocate for state legislature benefitting veterans, as well as for wildlife and the environment.
“That’s basically our playground,” Delaire said. “We want to make sure, in 10 to 20 years (it’s still there).”
Another goal for the next few years, Delaire said, is true expansion. He wants to work towards chapters opening elsewhere; he doesn’t just want to help the veteran community in Kitsap County, but the community as a whole.
Growing and expanding means LRS could use a few extra hands. One way to help out is simply becoming an advocate, who will help spread the word about LRS and what they do. No door knocking or cold calling, simply being willing to talk about it and answer questions. Delaire said a bit of training will be given and information provided so advocates can answer most questions that would come up.
More specifically, LRS is looking for the following volunteer positions to be filled: fundraising coordinator; social media administrator; multimedia content creator; event coordinator; director of outreach; and project manager.
If interested in getting involved, or you want more information about future events and adventures, contact Left Right Straight at email@example.com, or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LeftRightStraight.
Left Right Straight is having a fundraiser, partnered with MOD Pizza, on May 16. Anyone who presents the event flyer (to be circulated in the near future) or mentions the LRS fundraiser will have 20 percent of their sale go towards Left Right Straight. To ensure this event happens, RSVP at www.groupraise.com/events/55441.
Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.