Troops from the North American Aerospace Defense Command came together on Saturday to raise money for Canadian military members recovering from trauma.
The Taste of Charity Fundraising event started in 2013 and runs annually in support of a Wounded Warriors Canada effort designed to help couples recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. The north-of-the-border flavor reflects a unique aspect of Colorado Springs - it's the home of Canada's largest permanent foreign deployment.
"It is an opportunity for the Americans and Canadians to come together to help the Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday," said Canadian Air Force Maj. Jean Traynor, a spokeswoman for the fundraiser.
COPE was created in 2014 by retired Canadian Lt. Col. Chris Linford and his wife, Kathryn. Linford had deployed to Rwanda in 1994 and has battled post-traumatic stress ever since.
"He noticed there was a lack of programming for family members," Traynor said.
The program includes the family members of the individual suffering from PTSD and works through the "power of group," helping more than 75 couples start their recovery.
The program works by bringing five or six couples dealing with the issue together for a weekend.
"Having other couples there helps that couple realize they aren't alone," Traynor said.
The Taste of Charity fundraiser, held this year at Johnny Martin's Car Central, helps pay for those weekend retreats. Originally, the event was a wine tasting with a silent auction on the side. That silent auction evolved to take center stage, but the name remains unchanged.
The shift comes, in part, because of the growth in prizes donated each year. "This year, the total value of donated prices is about $17,000," Traynor said.
Those prizes include round-trip airline tickets provided by WestJet, $1,200 worth of escapes from Colorado Springs-based 21 Keys Escape Rooms, and even some hockey gear.
"USA Hockey donated a Team USA jersey and even a replica jersey from the 1980 'Miracle' team," Traynor said. "Maybe they are trying to convert us over to be fans."
Having a fundraiser in Colorado Springs for a Canadian program might seem odd, but the Canadian community in the Pikes Peak region is quite healthy.
Members of the Canadian armed forces serve in the Canadian element of North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and U.S. Northern Command.
In fact, about 150 Canadian servicemen and women and their families live in and around Colorado Springs.
"Canadians have been in the Springs since 1958," said Canadian Navy Lt. Marco Chouinard, a spokesman for NORAD. "It is really an honor for us to be serving both countries and protect the homeland."