Camp My Way
For former first responder Terrance Kosikar, his journey back to health and recovery from addiction and PTSD started in the remote wilderness of British Columbia. Now, he strives to provide those same recovery opportunities to his fellow first responders through his organization, Camp My Way.
VSSL is proud to support Terrance and Camp My Way.
I want to introduce you to my friend Terrance Kosikar and tell you why he has been flipping 400-pound tires up mountainsides in British Columbia these last few years, including the weeks he spent trudging uphill in the snow wearing 60 pounds of chains on his body. I recently joined him and VSSL Voyager Jill Brown as we all worked together to flip a tire up a remote mountain peak about three hours outside of Vancouver. I want to tell you about the noble work Terrance and Jill do through their group, Camp My Way, which offers wilderness-based mental health recovery programs for first-responders suffering from PTSD and addiction.
But, first, we have to start at the bottom—and specifically Terrance’s bottom. It’s essential to understanding his story, his journey into recovery, and how he worked his way to the top. Terrance worked as a first responder in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and he was one of the first on scene of the tragic fatal accident involving a luge athlete that occurred on the first day of the Games. Afterward, as a result of this extremely traumatic situation, and the build up of the many before that he witnessed, he began suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unable to cope, he turned to substance abuse. So many of our first responders have been taught to suppress their emotions—to “suck it up.” Terrance learned the hard way how damaging it can be to keep these feelings bottled up. After spiraling downhill and living homeless in Vancouver, he attempted suicide. He ended up alone in his cabin in the mountains, fighting for his life. He was searching for escape - and he found it. He found his salvation in nature. He also discovered a 400-pound tire on a hillside by his cabin. As he healed his mind and spirit, he started lifting the tire to get exercise and strengthen his body.
It worked. He’s been drug-free for years. His program is still working: He now uses lessons, experiences, and adventure-based programs rooted in nature to help others overcome the demons he still struggles with. Terrance is about as tough as a person can get, but he shows how important it is to ask for help. He is an authentic embodiment of Camp My Way’s motto: “It’s not weak to speak.”
Terrance and Jill asked me to come up for a weekend to get an inside look at their program at Camp My Way. Last year, Jill introduced me to Terrance by saying, “Wait till you meet him, he’s one of a kind!” And sure enough, when I helped deliver a couple of Jill’s kayaks to an event Terrance was hosting, I knew I had met a guy that really fit the “one of a kind” definition. He is a true beauty.
I had a feeling I’d like Terrance right away. As we were chatting outside, a mentally challenged man walked up and interrupted us. Terrance didn’t try to move the guy along. He took time to engage with him and make him feel valued and appreciated. Terrance was wearing a fire department shirt, so the guy asked if Terrance was a fireman. Terrance asked him if he knew how to call 911. The man said “yep!” Terrance asked what he’d do if he saw a fire. He responded, “I’d phone 911!” Then Terrance excitedly exclaimed, “See brother, you’re a fireman too!” and gave him a high five. The guy was SO stoked. About an hour later he came back. He had run home to put on a fire department t-shirt he owned, so he could proudly show it off. Terrance’s small gesture made a big impact. I liked that A LOT. But that comes naturally for Terrance. His default is to put others first.
I understood why being a first responder appealed so much to Terrance. He just loves helping people. Too often, we take our first responders for granted—until we really need them. At VSSL, we encourage people to head outdoors and do all of the activities they love, safely. But sometimes these outings become survival situations. That’s when we rely on Search & Rescue groups. That’s when first responders become heroes. But, unfortunately, SAR responders can suffer the adverse effects of repeatedly dealing with traumatic events. That can take a serious mental toll. Our frontline first-responders, such as paramedics and emergency medical personnel, face these extremely stressful situations nearly every day. The sad reality is that, each year, almost 200 first responders in Canada take their own lives.
That’s why Terrance flips those tires. That’s why I felt so compelled to join him, and to help make sure these men and women are supported. Before he started Camp My Way, when he was learning how many first responders were suffering from PTSD, just like him, Terrance knew he had to take action. He had to become their voice. His actions and voice had to be unique, so they could cut through the overwhelming media and digital noise we encounter in today’s society. He thought of the mental and physical catharsis he experienced while flipping that tire.
What if he flipped a tire up a mountain, in the snow, while wearing 60 pounds of chains on his body? That would bring the necessary attention to his cause. So, over several weeks he did just that up Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler. And it worked. His voice was heard. He garnered numerous press mentions, media interviews, and accolades. Camp My Way was born.
This year, Terrance planned to tackle one his largest challenges yet. He planned an incredibly arduous mountain route that would take several groups a few months. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted those plans. As a backup, Terrance, Jill, and a few others have been working to get the tire to the top of a remote peak about three hours outside of Vancouver. I had to join them.
While I was up there, Terrance and I ended up talking about empathy, and understanding the silent struggles so many people endure. It’s so important to leave your judgments behind and “walk a mile in their shoes.” With so much physical exertion from lifting the tire, I was definitely starting to suffer. Terrance used that as a lesson. He used it as a way for me to conceive of the pain that first responders go through as they put their lives on the line for us. And, of course, how you need to ask for help. This isn’t an easy thing for me to do. However, I found myself stuck a couple of times and had to call Terrance in for assistance. I had encountered obstacles I couldn’t overcome alone. That’s also part of the lesson – how to be a living embodiment of the “It’s not weak to speak” motto.
I found Terrance’s methods pretty inspiring. Through my experiences, I was able to understand the broader lessons he was trying to impart.
But once I got back home, I realized that my pain was temporary. As I contemplated the weekend, I considered HOW MUCH PAIN Terrance experienced, and on a scale far more immense than what I had just gone through. It made me think of how that pain has made him SO DRIVEN to prevent this from happening to his brothers and sisters in the first responder community.
Terrance has dedicated this chapter of his life to protecting those who protect us. He is devoted to a truly noble undertaking. For us at VSSL, we believe his programs are so worthy of our support. As we encourage people to get outdoors, we have to support the safety net of first responders that exists in case those adventures don’t go as planned. We’re going to walk this walk with Terrance. If he’s flipping tires to raise awareness for those who protect us, we’re going to do it with him. We encourage you to pitch in and support Camp My Way, as well.
- Todd Weimer, VSSL Founder
Please take the time to check out of their website and GoFundMe page:
About Camp My Way:
Camp My Way is a Residential Wilderness Program for First Responders and their families who have been affected by PTSD.
Camp My Way is located completely off the grid in the backcountry mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Their outdoor-based, adventure-focused programs teach participants how to survive off the grid, to respect the land Mother Nature has provided, and to appreciate the gift of life.
They combine self-sustaining practices with outdoor adventures, which are aimed at helping our Emergency Service Providers who struggle with an OSI (Operational Stress Injury) and PTSD get their lives back.