Evart barn donated to veterans' rehabilitation effort

EVART — Colorado is a long way away — just more than 1,300 miles.

Under the best of circumstances, the trip from Evart to Salida, Colo., could take a couple days of pretty intense driving.

The trip could take a little longer and be a bit more complicated if you were going to haul something big ... REALLY big.

Like a barn.

That is exactly what Dan Cook and the team from Rivers Of Recovery plan to do.

The plan is simple, at least when you look at the basics:

1) Come to Evart.

2) Take apart a 100-plus year old barn labeling every board, peg, beam, and strut.

3) Load the barn on a flatbed.

4) Drive to Colorado.

5) Put it back together again.

There is, however, a little more to it.

Rivers of Recovery is a nonprofit organization that has been recognized as one of the premier recreational rehabilitation programs in the United States.

The program has been embraced by veteran’s support organizations and has attracted the attention of national media.

Since its founding in early 2008, the ROR team has been wholly and solely committed to helping disabled veterans.

The organization’s programs combine idyllic settings with the therapeutic benefits of a cohesive group of individuals that have faced similar experiences and challenges.

In a given “session” participating veterans are provided with a temporary sanctuary, free of stresses and uncertainties, a place where they can relax, enjoy themselves and their surroundings.

The fishing trips allow veterans to demonstrate abilities and build skills while reinforcing their self-confidence and resolve.

Rivers of Recovery was founded on the belief that “experiencing the outdoors” and sharing good company is great medicine. That is why they host programs at great fishing rivers bringing six veterans or active duty participants together on each trip.

The weekends are very informal and feel like a family reunion. On each trip, the ROR staff, volunteers and fishing guides have one priority: maximizing the enjoyment of our participants.

The program is offered at no cost to veterans.

So ... why a barn in Evart?

“We found it on the Internet,” reported project coordinator Dan Cook.

“We needed a structure like this to turn into our operation headquarters — a focal point for our program. Everything we do is geared toward creating a rustic, comforting, embracing environment.

“An old red bard is perfect to our needs.”

The barn being discussed sits on the Forman farm, just west of the Evart High School baseball fields off of Lauman Road. The parcel was once known as the Brooker farm.

Cook contacted Gary Forman and explained what ROR does and what they would like to do with the barn.

The property is actually already owned by Nestle’s Waters North America, and the company was more than willing to allow the barn to be de-constructed and moved for a good cause.

“Mr. Forman immediately signed on to what we proposed, and was willing to turn the structure over to us,” continued Cook.

“We have a barn expert coming from New Hampshire who will head up the de-construction operation. He has already looked over the barn and reported it is in good shape, with a strong frame.

“The contracts are signed and we’re ready to go.

“This barn fits into our program much better than some sort of formal, clinical structure. It will be a big asset.”

The barn will be reduced to “bite-size pieces” and moved. No small task.

“We are going to completely disassemble the whole thing,” Cook said. “Everything will be marked, labeled, and loaded on one 53 foot flatbed.

“It sounds simple.

“I don’t realistically expect it will be as simple as it might sound.”

When reassembled in Colorado, on the banks of the Arkansas River, the Evart barn will become quite a complex.

“It will be a facility where we actually host program participants,” noted Cook. “The lower level will be dorm like areas with all the amenities.

“Our program participants are all combat veterans with either physical or psychological injuries — from all branches of the service. Their stay with us involves both the recreational aspect of rehabilitation as well as a well designed medical curriculum.

“The barn and the surroundings will provide a safe, secure environment.”

The hayloft area of the barn will be converted to office space and become the U.S. headquarters of the ROR program.

Cook will be arriving in Evart on April 20.

The Rivers For Recovery team are looking for some help.

“We need help moving and stacking,” he explained.

“If there are people with carpentry skills who would like to lend a hand with the project, that would be great. But we need is three or four people who can lift, shift, and basically get things ready for shipping as the barn is deconstructed.

“We can use volunteers fro a couple days. It would be great to get local folks involved with our program.”

While the ROR team initially need more skilled volunteers, when the deconstruction project is complete and the barn begins its trip out west, there will also be quite a bit of clean up that will require more volunteers — with less carpentry or construction skills.

There will be something for just about anyone, or any group that wants to lend a hand.

Anyone interested in helping out can contact Dan Cook at riversofrecovery.org or at (303) 801-8022.

Work will be taking place from April 20 through 30.

The ROR planning team is also very interested in talking to anyone in the area who might have another barn they would be interested in donating to the rehabilitation program. Planners are considering another projects for the summer of 2013.