In February of 2011, Pat and Jeff Baird of Custer, South Dakota, were inspired by a segment aired on the Oprah Winfrey show entitled "The Bravest Families in America". Well known journalist and author, Tom Brokaw, interviewed a wounded Afghanistan war veteran and his family regarding the day-to-day difficulties they faced. Oprah challenged her listeners with the question: "What can YOU do to help?" Because of their 41 combined years of military service and their true giving hearts, Jeff and Pat felt a special bond to these returning wounded veterans. "Since we live in paradise, what better place to provide a chance for these families to reconnect with each other and enjoy our area and all it has to offer?" thought Pat. Thus, Operation Black Hills Cabin was born.
Operation Black Hills Cabin is located in Custer, South Dakota, a close-knit, caring community of approximately 1,800 citizens. Custer is nestled in the middle of the Black Hills of South Dakota, and is a vacation and recreational paradise to many visitors each year. We are fortunate to have Mt .Rushmore National Monument within 20 miles; Jewel Cave National Monument, 12 miles; Wind Cave National Park, 20 miles; Custer State Park, 4 miles; and Crazy Horse Monument, 4 miles.
In addition to our many national parks and monuments, we are blessed with thousands of acres of Black Hills National Forest which offers endless recreational opportunities in many forms. Hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, spelunking, rock climbing, offroading, horseback riding and ATV riding are very popular.
The beauty of our parks and national forest is enhanced with the ever-present opportunity to view a variety of wildlife such as deer, elk, antelope, turkey, buffalo, big horn sheep, mountain goat, burros and prairie dogs.
Mt. Rushmore National Monument boasts close to three million visitors each year and the Black Hills of South Dakota have become a very popular vacation destination to many. Because of our close proximity, 40 miles, to Rapid City, the second largest city in South Dakota, our area has all of the cultural activities, sporting venues, dining and shopping opportunities and regional medical facilities close at hand.
Custer and the Black Hills are truly a family vacation destination with endless opportunities for family fun.
We operated in 2011 and 2012 due to the generosity of several private vacation homeowners and motels. We soon realized the need for our own cabin as it was oftentimes very difficult to coordinate the available weeks in the private vacation homes with the available weeks of the families. Our permanent cabin arrived on March 6, 2013. It was granted to Operation Black Hills Cabin by the State of South Dakota. In addition, the City of Custer has leased us a beautiful, wooded city lot very near to the hospital for 30 years at $1.00 per year. The support for our project has been overwhelming! The State, the City and many private citizens and business owners in Custer as well as the surrounding area have stepped on board to provide many meals, free admissions and recreational opportunities.
We are a 100% volunteer 501(c)(3) organization with no paid staff. We rely on the continued generosity of many donors, grants and fundraisers.
Our on-going expenses include maintenance of our cabin, utility costs, insurance and basic supplies, snacks and food that we provide to each family. Our out-of-pocket cost to accommodate an average family of five in our permanent cabin for seven days/six nights runs approximately $500.00 per family. From May through September, we are able to host 20 families each year.