PIQUA, Ohio (WDTN) — Traditionally rivals on the field and the court, the Piqua and Troy communities are coming together for one cause. 

Students are selling t-shirts ahead of the Piqua vs. Troy basketball game on February 10 to benefit veterans and raise awareness for PTSD. 

“It goes to show you can put the rivalry aside for a common cause like the veterans. Both communities and our county that we share take a great deal of pride with our veterans and what they’ve done for us,” states Piqua City Schools Athletic Director Chip Hare. 

It’s a student driven fundraiser to benefit Save a Warrior. They’ve already raised $13,000 in sponsorships from local businesses, and students hope to see that number grow with a goal of $16,000.

“I first thought it would be a great goal to save one life. And then it kind of snowballed where we’re between saving three and four lives,” says Piqua Senior Trenton Rudd. 

Rudd is spearheading the t-shirt sales, which started as a service learning project. 

“My grandpa–He served in Vietnam. And he had a purple heart in Vietnam. He never came out with PTSD, but you could just tell. It kept him on guard. I feel as if he wasn’t fully himself. So, this is why it really resonated with me, and I have a personal connection with it,” explains Rudd.

Friends Landon Lawson and Nathan Buecker are also joining him in the cause. 

“I know Rudd, and he’s determined. I knew he’d make an impact on it,” says Lawson. 

“I’m mainly in charge of the t-shirt sales. I’d say organizing all of the t-shirts. We have about 600 here at the high school now so we’re just trying to organize all that,” describes Buecker. “It seemed like something I’d really want to get involved in.”

Money from the t-shirt sales will go to Save a Warrior, a nonprofit helping veterans transition back into civilian life when they come home from war. Through the organization, it costs $4,000 to help save a life of a veteran with PTSD.

John Looker is a decorated veteran, and for years, struggled with emotional and mental pain after serving.

“When I came back from Vietnam, I had terrible PTSD. And the PTSD lasted for about five years. And I became an alcoholic. And I was probably pretty close to committing suicide myself,” describes Looker. “The hardest thing for me was carrying that guilt on my shoulder. And I carried it for 35 years before I got help.” 

Looker got the help he needed, but a few of his friends did not and took their own lives. Looker is involved in a number of veteran organizations including American Legion, VFW, Purple Heart Honor Guard, Disabled Veterans, Warren County Veterans Suicide Prevention Coalition, and Save a Warrior. He’s made it one of his missions to help other veterans.

“For these young men to step up and do this for that organization, it means a whole lot to me and a whole lot to the veterans out there,” says Looker. “If they just save one life with all the work they’ve done, it’s well worth it.” 

The cause is deeply personal to Looker as well as the students who are holding the fundraiser. 

“It makes me feel like I’m doing something more than just with myself. It’s definitely a selfless thing. Not to bring it on me, but I feel some selflessness with it, which is great to feel,” says Rudd. 

T-shirts will be available for $15 at both Piqua and Troy High Schools as well as the Piqua Board of Education. Buying a t-shirt will also get you into the basketball game on February 10.