Local non-profit gifts five vets a Walmart shopping spree

NOW: Local non-profit gifts five vets a Walmart shopping spree


SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Throughout the year veterans work to protect each of us here across the nation and today one local non-profit wanted to say thank you by gifting 5 Michiana vets a $500 Walmart shopping spree.

Get Wet for a Vet has been partnering with the VA for over 10 years gifting shopping sprees each holiday season, but this year they say it was different because they were able to bring family members along for the rewarding experience.

“I was a…. You know I’m an alcoholic. And, one year ago from today I never thought that I would be in this position and nothing was certain," said Devin Agee, Iraq Veteran and shopping spree winner.

Agee is an Iraq veteran who has struggled with PTSD. Seeking a lifestyle change earlier this year, he became involved with local non profit Get Wet for a Vet.

For him the support has been life changing, especially after learning he was one of five people chosen for this year’s $500 Walmart holiday shopping spree.

“The emotion is always high. You know it’s so rewarding. Not only just to see you know the things for the veterans and to give back because they gave so much, but just to still see the good in the world," said Natasha Mcclanahan, Deputy Chief of Voluntary Services for the VA Northern Indiana Medical Center.

Mcclanahan she’s been involved with the annual giveback event for over 10 years.

The event which is a partnership between the VA and Get Wet for a Vet is just one of many for the year, but COVID concerns caused all but one vet to be able to shop in person.

In search of volunteers, vice president for the non-profit Elaine Lydeem decided to recruit her five-year-old grandson Jasper so she could teach him the importance of giving back to those who serve.

“He does lots of hands on stuff so I just want him to know you know what a veteran is and how important they are and so it carries on with the next generation," said Lydeem.

Although he’s only five helping fill up the carts he learned something pretty special which is something Agee says he hopes to carry on to his daughter who he’ll be seeing for the first time this holiday season in over a year.

“I just hit my 9 month sobriety marker and it just everything seems to be coming together. New place. I’m independent. You know self-sufficient life. So, I think this year, this year I’ll remember for a long time," said Agee.

Both organizations say they’ll begin recruiting volunteers again in the new year.

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