Joel Pellicci and his friends had a problem; the population of wild pigs in South Carolina was skyrocketing, and they had to find a way to thin the herd in their area. That hog problem quickly turned into a humanitarian effort.
“Sitting around the campfire one night somebody said, you know what we need to do? We need to bring up some wounded guys from Special Operations and treat them to a hog hunt,” Joel told me. “A month after that campfire, on the same property we brought in eight guys and treated them to two days of hog hunting.”
But during that first hunt, Joel realized that they’d made a huge mistake.
“I looked at one of my friends and told them ‘We really screwed up.’ And he said ‘What do you mean? This is great! Everybody’s having a wonderful time.’ I said, ‘No, we really screwed up.’ He got a little upset and finally pushed me into a corner and said ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘We have to do this again.'”
SOWW (Special Operations Wounded Warriors) was born from that hunt, and since its founding in 2012, has grown into a full-fledged charity dedicated to recognizing US Special Operations Forces through outdoor adventures, family retreats, and specialized therapy. The name was formed as a play on the word for a female hog, since the annual “Takin’ Bacon” hunt is the bedrock of the organization. Joel told me that the charity is comprised of only volunteers from the top down; no one takes any salary or income for the work that they do.
More than Just Hog Hunting
“Once we incorporated the charity, we started being presented with some other opportunities,” Joel told me. Other hunting excursions, fishing, family retreats, and so many other events are on their calendar. Recently, the organization has zeroed in on the incorporation of therapy; specialists in PTSD, like-minded charities with specialists in substance abuse, and family therapists are available at events and can direct participants to the resources they need to get help after they leave.
The outdoor setting for the majority of these events brings its own kind of therapy, as well.
“One of the common phrases that we hear is that it’s been great to get back into the woods. We’ve learned that reconnecting people with nature is important to the individual. It brings them solitude and peace. And it is therapeutic to the mind to just relax and just spend time in the woods,” Joel told me. “We also like showing people that have experienced severe disability… guys that used to be able to enjoy the woods but think that they can’t do it anymore because of their limitations… [we like] presenting them the opportunity that even though you have limitations there are work-arounds.”
“The fellowship and the networking of like-minded individuals that can help each other while they’re here has been significant as well.”
Joel and his team work tirelessly to make sure that the events at SOWW are both enjoyable and impactful. So far, they’ve had tremendous success in that endeavor.
“We’ve had people that have come to an event as an alcoholic and, after some heart-to-heart and face-to-face talk, have gone home and taken treatment. They are now three and four-year recovered alcoholics,” he told me. “They’ve saved their families, which were in severe turmoil. We’ve had people spend time with us that were contemplating suicide… that told us that their time with us really opened their eyes. That they can still enjoy life and there are still things to hope for and wish for.”
Who knew bacon could be so good?
SOWW has a myriad of events scheduled for 2017, and they recently expanded into the Wyoming area. If you’d like more information, or would like to nominate a participant for an event, visit their official website for details.