DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — When an unidentified person broke into the Patriot Ice House on Little Detroit Lake last January, more than $1,200 in fishing equipment disappeared.
As soon as staff from American Heroes Outdoors installed a replacement lock, another attempted break-in was reported.
"There are hammer imprints on the lock, so someone was trying to break into it again," said Sam Floberg, a representative from the nonprofit organization, which provides outdoor experiences for veterans and first responders.
Floberg said the burglary was almost enough to discourage them from continuing the ice house program. The Patriot Ice House is a place where veterans, first responders and their family members ice fish free of charge.
Floberg explained that the loss of the equipment and attempted break-ins pushed his organization to question whether or not they'd continue running the program.
"This is an investment for us," he said. "For us to see it being broken into it, we thought: 'OK, should we just pull it?' "
Floberg said the community soon quieted these concerns. Locals donated more than $3,000 worth of equipment and tackle.
"The heart they have for veterans, for heroes, encouraged us to leave it on the ice," Floberg said.
Once the ice is thick enough in Detroit Lakes, the house will once again be available for veterans and family members, but this year the organization is going to be more cautious to prevent potential burglaries.
"Hopefully we're going to park (the ice fishing house) in a more commercial area where there are more houses around to deter," said Floberg.
In a few weeks, local heroes will once again be able to reel in a fish at the Patriot Ice House.
AHO is asking for $2,500 in donations to help offset expenses during the ice fishing season.
The group is also selling $20 raffle tickets to enter to win the Patriot Ice House. Next year, they will move a different ice fishing house onto the lake, so the ice house used during this season will be raffled off later this spring.
Find out how to enter or donation information at americanheroesoutdoors.com/patriot-ice-houses.