2018 marked the 25th year of BENCHMARK Adventure Ministries. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 25 years, it’s that opportunities to serve affect both staff and participants alike.

Mike Gingras, a 3-year ministry event staff volunteer, and our current Board Chair, was impacted as much as he made an impact in 2018.

In early September Mike traveled to Georgia to staff a wilderness survival themed retreat serving 40 Hunter Army Airfield Soldiers and Sons. Mike and Major “N” were talking about their family’s military service. Mike’s family also has a rich military history (both grandfathers, one Army, one Navy; dad, retired Navy; brother, Tennessee Air National Guard; 5 of 6 uncles, one graduated from US Navel Academy). Mike didn’t choose military service and often finds himself excluded from family military conversations.

Major “N” insisted, “You tell your family that what you are doing here matters to us.”

Later in September Mike started at first light preparing breakfast with 31 Fort Campbell Soldiers on the bank of the Red River days before they started an intense training school. One of the participants, Derek, and Mike started chatting and found similar interests with brief conversations throughout the day. Maybe they would hunt or shoot together in the future.

In November BENCHMARK partnered with Chaplain “P” providing smoked chicken and ham, deep fried turkey, and 19 volunteers in support of this same unit’s Soldier and Family resilience training dinner. Derek made a point to find Mike to introduce him to his mother since this dinner was the evening before his graduation from this elite special operations training.

As they talked she said, “Thank you for looking after my son so well. It means a lot.” Derek’s mother got a little teary eyed and walked off.

Mike got a big lump in his throat and later said, “It’s gratifying to know that BENCHMARK made a difference and that Derek mentioned it to his mother. Since I have a child about the same age, it meant a lot to me.”

When you give to BENCHMARK, know that you are making a difference in the lives of ministry event participants and volunteers alike. THANK YOU.

“You tell your family that what you are doing here matters to us.”