Joel Hunt’s passion for football has brought him back to the field he once reigned as a field goal kicker.
The disabled Iraqi veteran and Purple Heart recipient, joined the Army after graduating from Northwestern High School in 1998, where he shined as the field goal kicker for the Tigers.
During his deployments, Hunt was exposed to enemy fire and numerous
improvised explosive device blasts. One left him with a severe traumatic brain injury, vision impairment and paralysis in his left leg.
Upon returning to the states, Hunt sank into depression and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder remembering all the soldiers he left behind.
Thanks to his family and other supporters, Hunt, who now lives in Colorado, rebounded and now is hoping to help other fellow injured service men and women throughout the country through Buddy Bowl, a charity flag football tournament aimed to heal veterans through sports.
“Buddy Bowl helps me to stay active in a sport I enjoy,” said Hunt, who kicked the game-winning field goal lifting Northwestern High School football team to a sectional title during his senior year. “It’s truly an inspiring event.”
After hearing about the Buddy Bowl out West, Hunt wanted to bring that excitement to Kokomo.
The tournament begins with registration at 9 a.m. May 5.
Andrew Alger, promotions director for the event, said he expects to have at least three to four teams and is hoping to get local teams and referees from Kokomo to join in the fun.
Alger, a Western High School graduate, who now lives in Indianapolis, never met Hunt before running across him on Facebook.
“In doing a fundraiser called Active Heroes, an event set for May 19 in Indy, I ran across Joel on Facebook,” said Alger. “He told me about the Buddy Bowl program and said it was his dream to have it in Kokomo.”
The cost to play in the tournament is $40 per person with proceeds going towards Operation Rebound and The American Gold Star Mothers Club.
“Part of the goal is get the word out and hopefully make this an annual event,” Alger said. “The main goal is to help disabled veterans, fire, police and rescue.”
Founded by Iraqi veteran Nico Marcolongo, the concept of a Buddy Bowl was aimed at helping military veterans through sports.
The event dates back to 1977 when it originally was a casual flag-football tournament played on the beaches of San Diego, according to the Buddy Bowl website. In 1999, the event became a fundraiser to help crash victims of a helicopter training exercise.
Buddy Bowl now raises thousands of dollars each year for scholarships for military children, who have lost parents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, Buddy Bowl events were held in Las Vegas, Denver, Millis, Mass., and Camp Pendleton in California.
• Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8565 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.