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Healthy Swings raises $120,000 for Next Chapter

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) - Two years ago, in response to the high rate of suicide among veterans in El Paso County, the legislature provided funding to create Next Chapter.

The nonprofit provides a variety of services at little to no cost far quicker than the VA ever could.

The goal when it was funded by the legislature in 2022 was to assist 700 veterans in the first three years.

Almost exactly two years into the program, Next Chapter had already helped just under a thousand.

Katheleen McCluskey is one of the many success stories.

Watching her work at the Springs Rescue Mission, where she is a member of the security team, you would have time believing her story.

She joined the U.S. Army out of high school, starting at Fort McClellan in Alabama where was part of a group trained in responding to chemical and biological weapons.

However, her family situation forced her out of the military, and that was the start of a difficult stretch that ended with her staying at the Springs Rescue Mission as a client.

Realizing that she was homeless took a tremendous toll on her.

"The trauma that got you there is one thing.  And then realizing that 'I'm in a homeless shelter' and not having the tools to deal with those things can lead you to self-medicate and self-destruct," she explained.

After staying clean for 18 years, she was once again addicted to drugs, which lead to trouble with the law. 

However, it was her experience in the legal system that actually led to a breakthrough.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office has something called Veterans Trauma Court, where instead of incarceration, veterans who meet a certain criteria are offered various resources.

One of those resources is Next Chapter. 

"Between vet court and Next Chapter, I would not be here without them," she says while fighting tears.

"She (Katheleen) is able to process the difficult things that happened to her during her time in the military, and definitely feel better about being a veteran in our community," explains Damian McCabe.

McCabe, a veteran himself, says Next Chapter isn't a 'get out of jail free' card, but those willing to put in the work are rewarded. 

"Through Next Chapter, she's been able to meet all the stipulations the court put on her, and she's going to graduate from the veterans trauma court rehabilitation program in about two weeks, and be free from all of those legal implications that came as part of her transition," he says.

Katheleen received emergency assistance as well as counseling, but also something only Next Chapter could offer.

"I'm in there with other soldiers and marines and airmen.  And there's a different kind of bond.  There's a different kind of connection.  There's an unspoken 'I get it', and it's a beautiful thing.  It's amazing."

She carries a Next Chapter reminder on her key chain, and whether it's offering clothing or encouraging clients to attend programs, she's now using her experience to help others. 

"I was homeless.  I was on drugs.  I have had trauma.  We've all had trauma, everybody to a different degree, but we've all been through it.  And it's something I tell a lot of the clients that come through at work.... you're worth fighting for.

June 8 marked one year that Katheleen has worked at the Springs Rescue Mission. 

She still attends counseling once a week through Next Chapter.

Obviously, the cost of services like counseling is significant, but a special event at Coors Field on Tuesday night provided a little relief.

At the 6th Annual "Healthy Swings", sponsored by UCHealth, Next Chapter was the beneficiary.

Nearly a dozen members of the Denver Broncos, along with members of the Denver and Colorado Springs media, Dude Dad, and other online celebrities participated in the home run derby style fundraiser.

Based on the distance of each ball that was hit, UCHealth donated a dollar amount to Next Chapter

KRDO's Bart Bedsole was among them, raising more than $9000 for the cause, far better than any previous media representative according to UCHealth staff.

However, Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton was the top batter, hitting several home runs and raising more than anyone else.

It was his second year in the row taking home the title.

Meanwhile, Next Chapter took home a check for $120,000.

McCabe said afterward it far exceeded his expectations.

If you're a veteran struggling with your transition out of the military, you can find information on how to contact Next Chapter right now at

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Bart Bedsole

Bart is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Bart here.


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