Red Strike Helps Wounded Vets Get Out

Red Strike Helps Wounded Vets Get Out

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Story by: Tim Shellberg
Photo by: Spencer Tesanovich
Spencer Tesanovich, captain and co–creator of the Team Defiant paintball organization, has some sage and simple advice for people taking part in his "Red Strike" excursion.

"Be hydrated, motivated and dedicated," he said. "Drive on and have fun, but play safe and fair. Come out and enjoy the sport and enjoy the camaraderie."

For 26 hours, area paintball players of nearly all ages and all levels of skill will have the opportunity to shoot and dodge at Hobart's Blast Camp Paintball. Starting at noon Aug. 25 and running through 2 p.m. Aug. 26, the venue will host "Red Strike," which honors veterans wounded in combat and gives them, along with their participating civilian counterparts, the chance to play on the field.

A veteran of the war in Iraq, the Texas–based Tesanovich created Team Defiant with his father, Steve Tesanovich, who was born in Gary and reared in Portage. Both longtime supporters of veterans causes, the seeds for what would become Team Strike were sewn during a conversation at a Houston Texan football game between Spencer Tesanovich and a wounded veteran, who voiced a desire to, one day, be able to participate in paintball.

Inspired, the Tesanoviches got into contact with Impact a Hero, a nationwide nonprofit organization which assists wounded veterans through a myriad of programs and events. Through Impact a Hero, the Tesanoviches and Team Defiant were able to procure stand-up track chairs, which allow for many disabled people to become mobile in both seated and upright positions.

"It's something tangible, where we can see the benefits and derive from them immediately when you're out there with these guys," Steve Tesanovich said of the chairs, which cost $15,000. "The key is to try and get more of (the handicapped veterans) to understand that they can get out to these sort of activities."

Last fall, Team Defiant held their first "Red Strike" paintball event and, this spring, hosted a paintball event for wounded veterans and their families, friends and supporters, in Joliet.

In addition to paintball, the Tesanoviches have created and hosted three–gun shoots and clay shoots for wounded veterans. A pre–event barbecue is scheduled for participants at Blast Camp at 7 p.m. Aug. 24.

"What we're doing is created an atmosphere which gives (the wounded veterans) an opportunity to get out and use these all–terrain chairs and spend a weekend with other soldiers and have that sense of camaraderie," Tesanovich said. "We created Team Defiant to get these guys out.

"We want to give them an evening of food on Friday and campfire if they can stay over. And then we get them out on the field to get them into the game, so they have a sense of belonging in it all."

The Tesanoviches found a kindred spirit in Virgil Frey, owner of Hobart's Blast Camp, to bring their "Strike" to the region.
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