Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program has hit a $1 million fundraising milestone just two years after the program launched. Through private donations, Gear Up for Game Wardens provides specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need to maintain safety and ensure the highest level of service for the people of Texas. While the state provides the basic necessities for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional equipment.
Since the program launched, close to 800 donations have been made, for a total of just over $1 million raised. Since October 2017, specialty equipment and gear has been purchased and deployed across all eight game warden regions in Texas. Specialty gear provided by the program that is now being used by Texas Game Wardens includes search and rescue (SAR) drones, SAR inflatable boats, side scan sonar units, water rescue dry suits, night vision and thermal imaging units, ATVs, UTVs and specialized K-9 units.
The program launched in October 2017 after a group of dedicated individuals approached Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) with an idea of how they might support the efforts of Texas Game Wardens. TPWF is the official nonprofit funding partner of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Discussions continued, a leadership committee was formed and a website, gearupforgamewardens.org, was launched to facilitate donations.
“Texas Game Wardens play an important role in the lives of all Texans,” said Dan Flournoy, chair of the Gear Up for Game Wardens Leadership Council. “Along with their duty to protect the natural resources we all hold dear, they are also on the frontlines of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. There have been other significant flooding events in Texas since Gear Up for Game Wardens launched, and there is no doubt in my mind that specialty gear provided through this program has saved lives.”
Donations have come from all corners of the state and in all amounts, from $25 to more than $66,000 from the Saltwater Anglers League of Texas (SALT). The Sabine River Authority has also stepped up in appreciation of what Texas Game Wardens do for the people of Texas and has donated more than $70,000 in several grants to the program. An outreach event in Concan earlier this year called Women Who Wander dedicated the proceeds of the event to Gear Up for Game Wardens for a total of more than $34,000. In addition, co-chairs of the leadership council have staged fundraisers all over the state to fund equipment for their local game wardens.
“The local committees are what make the program successful, and 100 percent of every donation received for equipment goes directly to purchase the specialty gear that our Texas Game Wardens need,” said TPWF Executive Director Susan Houston. “We are deeply grateful for the support of the committees, and for each and every donation we have received.”
Flournoy recounts the story of a phone call he received from a West Texas bank asking about how a bank customer could make a donation to Texas Game Wardens. The customer’s husband, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, had wandered from their rural home and could not be found for hours. A Texas Game Warden tracked him down with the aid of an ATV funded by Gear Up and brought him safely home right before dark. The grateful woman wanted to show her support and made a $500 donation to Gear Up for Game Wardens. The bank officer let Flournoy know that this was a sizable donation for the couple.
“That phone call really touched my heart and made me really appreciate how Texas Game Wardens help all Texans,” said Flournoy.
Texas Game Wardens have watched over the lands, waters, wildlife and people of Texas for more than 100 years. Every year, Texas Game Wardens patrol over 10 million miles by vehicle and 130,000 hours by boat, facing challenges as unique as the 254 counties they serve. To find out more about the program, or to make a donation, go to GearUpForGameWardens.org
“The level of support we have received from the Gear Up for Game Wardens program administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is absolutely incredible,” said Col. Grahame Jones, who heads the Law Enforcement Division at TPWD. “Most of all, every Texas Game Warden is deeply appreciative of the hundreds of Texans who have donated to Gear Up.