A lifeline for veterans

Mary Wicoff|Commercial-NewsJenny Lou Merrell, left, and Julia Wilson hold gift baskets that will be part of a silent auction Saturday at the third Working Out PTSD fundraiser. They are standing next to a new promotional sign that was designed by Dan Pate of Clearmont, Fla. Pate, formerly of Danville, had the sign made and then donated it to Working Out PTSD, founded by Merrell and Wilson.

DANVILLE — A three-part event on Saturday will raise money to help veterans cope through exercise.

The third annual Working Out PTSD fundraiser will feature: workouts for a $5 donation in the morning at True Grit Fitness in Tilton; a benefit ride for motorcycles and other vehicles starting at 11 a.m. at American Legion Post 210; and an evening of music, food and auctions, starting at 6 p.m. at the Legion.

Co-founders Jenny Lou Merrell and Julia Wilson founded Working Out PTSD in honor of their sons, who lost their battles with it: Marine Sgt. Aaron Merrell, 26, who died July 4, 2015, and Marine Tyler Lee Wilson, 29, who died June 8, 2016.

Working Out PTSD pays for gym memberships for qualified veterans, and also has expanded to raise money to help veterans in other ways, such as buying service dogs. All of the local gyms are partnering with the group to provide memberships for a reduced cost.

A veteran does not need to have been diagnosed with PTSD in order to apply and doesn’t need to have seen combat. He or she may choose which gym he would like to join. This must be a new membership.

Since the first fundraiser in May 2017, more than $25,000 has been raised and more than 100 veterans have received gym memberships.


At 9:30 and 11 a.m. Saturday, Hero’s Workout of the Day will be offered at True Grit Fitness, 1606 Georgetown Road, Tilton, for a $5 donation, with all money going to Working Out PTSD. You don’t need to be a member to participate, and the workouts will be geared to your abilities.

Two crossfit trainers, Robert Peppo of Chicago and Michael Sandone of Champaign, are coming in for the workouts.

Learn more at the True Grit Facebook page. The workout is in honor of Tyler Wilson.


The Merrell-Wilson Benefit Ride for PTSD will start Saturday morning at the American Legion Post 210. Registration will be from 9-10:45 a.m., and vehicles will leave at 11 a.m.

The participants will visit four American Legions — in Cayuga and Rockville, Ind., Westville and Danville. Cost is $20; each passenger is an additional $5.

The group will return around 5 p.m., and will receive a meal at the Legion.

Last year, 86 vehicles of all types participated.


The main Working Out PTSD event will start at 6 p.m. at the Legion, beginning with a meal for $5. Bingo will be offered from 6-7:45 p.m. in the bar, and the Zack Dable Experience will perform.

There will be a silent auction; that will end at 7:45 p.m. and winners will be announced at 8 p.m. Included in that auction will be 16 baskets holding gift cards of all values.

Also, at 8 p.m. there will be a live auction offering a John Jansky painting of the Statue of Liberty, a date night basket, and a patriotic quilt made by Sue Ross and Loretta West. Auctioneer will be state Rep. Mike Marron.

There also will be a 50-50 drawing.

The band will move to the banquet hall at 8 p.m., and a deejay will set up in the bar.

Wilson and Merrell are pleased at the variety of items offered in the silent auction, and the outpouring of community support.

“We’re going to have a ton of exciting things,” Wilson said. “I’m excited about our auction.”

The two sent letters to every business in Danville, and got a lot of corporate response.

“It’s amazing how much they kicked in this year,” Merrell said.

“Everyone has jumped on board and said, ‘absolutely, we want to support our veterans,’” Wilson said.


Since Working Out PTSD was started, people have seen the benefit in helping veterans stay mentally and physically healthy.

Working out helps veterans relieve their stress and helps them make connections with other people. The physical exercise serves as a possible preventative for veterans who haven’t been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some veterans could have a mild form of PTSD — post traumatic stress syndrome — and not realize it.

In fact, Merrell and Wilson missed a sign that their Marine sons were struggling with PTSD: They stopped working out — something they were passionate about.

It is proven that working out helps maintain a positive attitude, improves health and self-esteem, and can provide a brotherhood like they had in the military.


• Learn more at the Facebook page, Working-Out-PTSD.

• You may donate money at https://www.gofundme.com/WorkingOutPTSD.

Also, an account has been set up through American Legion Post 210; specify it’s for Working Out PTSD. Drop off monetary donations or mail to: 210 Prospect Place, Danville, IL 61832.

• Learn more about PTSD at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/