Handmade wood canes help restore dignity to veterans, with the generosity of an Indiana couple.
Joe Ferrell and his wife Sue have long family trees buried in soldiers’ cemeteries, including Sue’s son, Donald, who joined the army after 9/11 and died only a year after coming back from his final deployment. Donald, like many veterans, left the service injured in both body and mind. His life impressed on them the importance of honoring and aiding veterans.
A few years ago, Joe learned to make handmade wood canes from pine trees, which typically grow straight with a graceful grain. He thought briefly about selling them at craft fairs, but together, he and Sue had a better idea.
They would give them away, to veterans.
“If we can do something nice for them, something that’ll give them a little respect, that’s why we do this,” Joe said.
Joe makes the canes out of the trunks and branches of donated Christmas trees. He lets the wood age a year before debarking it, and makes the two-piece canes without any fasteners, only a carved mortise and tenon joint.
“There’s no nails, no nothing, it’s made out of pure pine lumber,” Joe said. “…Pine, once it dries, it’s like a rock.”
Once it’s made, Sue does the finishing work, staining and customizing the cane for each recipient. They might have service logos, dates, sports mascots, or family names. Each one is stamped with an ID number and contact information for Lean On Me, so that a lost cane can be reunited with its owner. People find them via their Facebook page, Canes for Veterans Central Indiana.
When the handsome canes are complete, the Ferrells like to hand-deliver them if they can, and be in touch with the recipient if they can’t.
So far, Lean On Me has donated about 80 canes to veterans and has approximately 50 waiting unfinished in the wings, ready to be customized for the next recipient. The Ferrells take donations only to help pay for shipping and supply costs, but most of those come out of their own pockets.