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Renewed life for Christmas trees turned into canes for veterans by local non-profit

Posted at 7:42 PM, Dec 31, 2021

A Central Texas non-profit is working to build canes for disabled vets, shipping them across Texas and around the world.

Jamie Wills, the founder of Canes for Vets Central Texas, was a veteran in need of a reliable walking cane. After building one for himself, he now builds them out of any wood scraps he can find. He's asking folks in the community to donate their Christmas trees so he can continue his mission.

You can donate Sunday at the Bru Thru in Copperas Cove from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. With about 30 to 40 hours of work, the canes for vets' team can transform your Christmas Tree into a life-changing crutch. Wills said if you think about it, veterans and Christmas Trees are a lot alike.

"They take the soldier and the Christmas tree when they are young. They both get decorated up and at the end of the year or the season, they both get thrown away. Well, when that happens the veteran now feels useless a lot of the time," Wills said.

Wills was one of those veterans who felt lost after his service.

"I was put as 100% disabled I felt worthless. I went into a real bad depression I contemplated suicide actually I was on the verge of suicide and now this gives me a purpose of being again," said Wills.

He said bringing purpose back to Christmas trees is what he hopes to do for veterans. However, Wills said it's so much more than building canes.

"It’s more than just sitting here and making canes every day it’s like daily counseling sessions," said Wills.

Through sawdust and sandpaper, renewed life and purpose are created.

James Carnahan is a former first responder and volunteer, he said, "That’s the biggest thing talk to somebody because I would rather hear your problems then hear your eulogy. We all run around and have gaps in us, the heartbreak of one thing or another but when we get here, we somehow become whole."

Wills has designed a safe space in his garage. The usual team of 5 or less cranking out over 700 canes since 2019, shipping them as far as Australia. Right now, there is a backlog of 1,200 requests for canes, so Wills always welcomes volunteers.

You can follow them on Facebook or head over to their website for donation information.