A sign outside the Long & McQuade store on 8th Street in Saskatoon has an important message for veterans living with post-traumatic stress.
Guitars for Veterans is a national program started by Jim Lowther, a Canadian Armed Forces Veteran who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving on operational tours in Bosnia.
“I pushed this idea because about three years ago, we had a lot of soldier and veteran’s suicides, back to back and you know, I’ve been that dark,” Lowther said.
Lowther told 650 CKOM one day he decided randomly to pick up an old guitar that happened to be laying around the house.
“I drifted off for like 15 or 20 minutes and it broke the cycle of despair in my head,” Lowther said. “To me, that was amazing. I felt better and I couldn’t believe it. I kind of laughed out loud.”
From that day on, Lowther said he would make sure he made time for the instrument.
“When that cloud of darkness would come over me, also known as PTSD, I would force myself to pick up my guitar,” Lowther said.
While Lowther found something that worked for him, he wanted to get guitars in the hands of others living with PTSD.
He put a call out on Facebook, looking for gently-used guitars for what would eventually become the program, Guitars for Veterans.
Lowther said people from Newfoundland to B.C. wanted to donate guitars, but they needed a drop-off location. That led to a partnership with Long & McQuade musical instruments.
Tim Meyer, the manager of the 8th Street location in Saskatoon, said he was there when a veteran, who asked to remain anonymous, picked up a gently used guitar in August.
“It was extremely emotional. It was unbelievable. He was so grateful and you just knew this was going to help him in leaps and bounds,” Meyer said.
“He was trying guitar later on in life and you could see he was going to continue on with it. This was a great program for him to be in.”
More than 800 guitars have been donated to the cause since it began.
The program isn’t just for Remembrance Day either, it runs year-round. People can learn more about donating, volunteering instruction time or becoming a recipient online.