Prosperity, SC (Angelica Iglesias) – The Freedom and Hope Foundation is a South Carolina non-profit organization that provides weekends of fishing, hunting, and fellowship as recreational therapy for both active and retired wounded military and children with life threatening illnesses.
Executive Director Terry Cotney began the foundation on his own in 2010. It all started when he volunteered for a one-time fishing event with a similar cause to help disabled people get back to the outdoors. Cotney could see the need for an organization that held events to provide guidance, fundraising, and other sustenance for such programs. And that’s how the Freedom and Hope Foundation was founded.
Their first official hunting trip was their biggest and most successful. They had 23 disabled military personnel that came back with 13 deer. At the time, the foundation put the heroes up in hotels, but Cotney began to see the need for a lodge that would add to the outdoors experience and fellowship.
Cotney found an old rescue building that he used as a lodge for a couple of years, but it was poorly ventilated, making it hot in the summer and cold in the winter. After many prayers and some generous donations, the foundation was able to build a beautiful lodge valued at $187,000 for free. Cassell Brothers Heating & Cooling gave one of the biggest donations by installing an entire A/C unit free of charge. They named it “Freedom Isn’t Free Lodge.”
“A million thanks to the community and yourself [The Freedom and Hope Foundation] for all you do for us. Finally, thanks again for letting us stay in the lodge. It is a great pleasure not to have to set up lodging at a hotel,” said wounded soldier SSG Berry about the new lodge which has only added to the outdoors experience.
Today, the foundation holds annual hunts that honor certain fallen service members. They honor World War II MIA soldier Sergeant Richard Fellers, Iraq victim Specialist Thomas Caughman, Specialist Frankee Barbee and Chaplain Watters who lost their lives in Vietnam, Lieutenant Ryan Rawls and Lieutenant Almar Fitzgerald who both died in Afghanistan, and Specialist Dennis Meetza and Lieutenant Jessee Baker.
They have touched the lives of many of these fallen heroes’ families. Kyle Carpenter’s father is on the board of the foundation, so he understands what this means to the families of these soldiers. When Ryan Rawls’ father saw that the Freedom and Hope Foundation dedicated one of their deer stands to the lieutenant, tears came to his eyes and he felt Ryan there with him as he hunted. Both Cotney and his brother served in the military, so he sees the importance of giving back to our soldiers and their families.
This organization touches the lives of American heroes and children that do not have the opportunities others do. The Freedom and Hope Foundation provides an outdoor experience for disabled soldiers and kids that they just cannot get anywhere else in South Carolina.