If you live in a city subdivision, there’s a common site early in each new year. Discarded Christmas trees laying at the curb on garbage day, waiting to be picked up.
Where I live, trees are then shredded down to wood chips and turned into mulch. So at least they are recycled and reused. However, a Texas man had a better idea.
The Story of Jamie Willis and his Canes
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is true for 50-year-old Jamie Willis of Copper’s Cove, Texas.
Willis, who is a U.S. Army vet who served in Desert Storm came home hurt. He was involved in an accident in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, an armored personnel carrier, something that resembles a tank. His back injury left him temporarily paralyzed and now permanently disabled.
Since then, he has relied on a cane to help him walk.
In an interview with Fox7 , he says,
“I was using one of the VA canes, the metal ones, and it kept breaking.”
So he turned to another source, a man who was making wooden canes and shipping them across the U.S. But he a backlog of 500 orders and wouldn’t be able to help. However, he did provide help.
“He walked me through the steps of making the canes. I first thought ‘No, there’s no way possible I could do that.’ He’s like, ‘Yes, you can. Try it.’”
Well, Willis tried it, and in 2016 he started the “Canes for Veterans Central Texas” effort. And it has changed his life.CNN Source: CNN
A Changed Man
Willis admits to doing something he’s come to love has not only helped to turn his life around, but it’s also given him a better outlook. In a candid interview with PEOPLE he shares,
“I went through depression bad. There were times when I almost took my own life. Making the canes actually brought me back from the brink of suicide. I don’t know what it was, but I think this is my actual calling.”
In a separate interview with As It Happens he recalls how he felt when he gave away his first cane.
“The gentleman that I gave it to — he was a friend of mine. Me and him both went into tears. It was just an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness. He hated his VA cane. And it was something special to him.”
Since then, Jamie has made 222 canes, most of them shipping across the U.S. but he says he’s also shipped to Germany and England. And you don’t have to be a veteran to request one of his canes. Each cane is custom made, and he has a waiting list of about 400.
Using Donated TreesFox7 Source: Fox7
Via his Facebook , Willis advertises drop-off locations for trees. He says he started doing this last year and got about 100 trees. So far this year, he has about 1,400 trees. And while most donations are fairly local, some are willing to drive a bit farther. When asked how far, he replied,
“About 200 miles. They drove a single tree from Dallas to my house and to tell me thank you for what I was doing.”
Willis says that he does this so he doesn’t “sit home all day feeling sorry for myself,” but he has another message to those he spends time making canes for.
“I just want to let all the veterans and even non-veterans that I give these canes to, let them know that they’re not forgotten. That somebody still cares about them.”
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