BILLINGS - Veteran suicide continues to be a challenge and citizens around the country want to help.
The Adaptive Performance Center (APC) in Billings is celebrating its 3rd anniversary.
The gym is unique for veterans and a concept that has spread to Helena and may eventually end up in other states.
APC has helped nearly 800 veterans.
It started as a safe place for veterans to work out and over the last few years, it has done much more to help decrease veteran suicide.
APC also helps future military men and women prepare for their training.
At other times, veterans lift weights and exercise at the gym, which started during COVID in 2020.
"That's what I needed at the time," said Jeffrey Bokma, a U.S. Army veteran.
Bokma has been at APC from the beginning. And He attributes his success to Mitch Crouse and Karen Pearson, co-founders of the gym.
"They're vitally important to me in my life and my growth," said Bokman. "They're just incredibly important."
During the three years, APC has added occupational therapists, liaisons to different agencies, and more trainers.
Camaraderie and bonding have always been part of the gym, along with comfort care dogs that help veterans.
"They have a lot of stuff going on inside of them emotionally," said Pearson. "And they know that the dogs don't judge them. And that's why dogs make such a wonderful companion for veterans."
APC holdsWalk The Bridge on the 22nd of every month to bring awareness and support to veterans.
And it has also brought inspeakersto help.
All this has led to the success in helping 654 veterans in Billings and already 128 at the new Helena gym.
"When I hear the stories that these vets tell, I probably cry almost every day," Crouse said. "Just either joy or sadness, that they've got that far. But it's also very rewarding."
"I can't even describe what it's like when you see the life come back into somebody's eyes. When you see somebody achieve a goal that they had set that they didn't believe would ever happen.
And with all the donors and support they're ready for the next three years and beyond.
"Help more guys and gals," Crouse said. "Just keep on keep on doing it and just keep moving forward."
Knowing that Crouse, Pearson and others at APC care and understand, contributes to the success of the gym and the veterans.
"Hundred percent," Bokmas said about the caring and understanding. "It's the most important part of it."