BILLINGS — The American Legion in Billings hosted a hot-dog eating contest for a great cause. Eight contestants ate as many hot dogs as they could in ten minutes to benefit Billings based nonprofit, Warrior Transition Outdoors.
It was a challenge Billings resident Erik Rasmussen had to accept.
“I had half a mind to not show up. I have a little fever going but it would disappoint too many people and this cause was too good,” Rasmussen said on Sunday.
That cause had to do with vets. In the United States, up to 22 veterans lose their lives to suicide a day.
“You want to make an impact because every day we walk around and there’s people that aren’t here anymore because of suicide,” said Josh Borner with the American Legion.
That’s why Army reservists Borner hosts a fundraiser on the 22nd of every month, benefiting organizations that aid veterans like Warrior Transition Outdoors.
The nonprofit was started by two brothers with big dreams.
“WTO takes a holistic approach to helping the veteran and their family transition to civilian life and we do that through life long family advocacy and outdoor adventures,” said Chief Executive Officer of WTO, Gabe Erickson.
Erickson’s brother Gavin is the Chief Operating Officer of the nonprofit. He’s served in the Army for 20 years and saw his peers struggle transitioning from deployments to civilian life firsthand.
“It’s not just for the veterans, the spouse, the kids, dog, cat, goldfish. Whatever they consider important to them, that’s part of the transition, is carrying that with you into their new life,” Erickson said.
WTO will visit the vet’s home with their family advocacy team to see what needs must be met, passing what they learn along to the nonprofit’s mental and medical advisory board.
“We’re able to take that wisdom and create custom, hyper tailored transition plans for every single veteran and their family,” said Erickson.
It’s a lifelong partnership that’s just one part of the nonprofit’s purpose.
“Once they settled then, we start to look at okay what outdoor adventure can we plan for you. That’s going to be that five star back country salmon fishing in Alaska, Rocky Mountain elk hunting with a bow,” Erickson said.
WTO also offers therapy at no cost to any vet in need, even if they’re not affiliated with the nonprofit.
Rasmussen said it’s what made eating 13 and a half hot dogs worth it.
“I’m not good at a lot of things but it was like, oh if I can eat a couple hot dogs in front of people to raise money for that foundation, of course I’m going to do that,” Rasmussen said.