I started the Invisible Wounds Project because I experienced the struggles of PTSD and trauma as a first responder firsthand. I spent 17 years in public safety working as a police officer, corrections officer and 911 dispatcher. In 2016 I was struggling with PTSD and had hit rock bottom. I was having suicidal ideations, and I hated who I had become. I was a bad father, husband, and was making bad decisions at work that were impacting myself and those I worked with. I knew I needed to make a change in order to save my life. I had looked around for help, but I couldn’t find anything for someone whom I trusted or would understand what I was going through.

Rewind a bit to 2009, I had started an event that’s now called Cruise For Heroes, as a way to pay tribute to my dad who was a veteran, and give back to veterans. I decided to take a leap of faith and leave my public safety career to pursue a career in sales and marketing. It took a few years, but I knew I needed to do something more to help others who were like me. I knew too many first responders who were struggling without resources.

Over time, I recruited some like-minded folks who also wanted to help. In 2018, the Invisible Wounds Project was founded. Over time, the mission has changed to meet the needs of those we serve, but the vision has always remained the same, to help improve the lives and mental health of veterans, first responders, and their families. We focus on helping the small percentage of those who answer the call to serve and do things that most will never see or do. It was also important to me that the families not be left behind. I know all too well that the trauma and struggles I dealt with found their way home, and impacted my family.

Today, we are helping people connect with therapists that are specialized in working with our veterans, and first responders. We provide wellness and social connection activities that help those we serve get out and reconnect with their peers. We’ve built a community of helpers that support others and they’ve found new purpose in paying it forward. Each year we help hundreds of individuals, families and groups.

Aaron Bedessem - Chair

Aaron Bedessem is the Vice President of Marketing & Operations at Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack. He has been there since 2008, helping open the property and building their brand and reputation within the community and state. Aaron also has a cocktail mix company called B Friendly where their mission is to promote mental health with-in the hospitality industry, and they sell high-end cocktail mixes to promote this goal. Aaron has a strong philanthropic mindset serving on many boards such as the MN Tourism Connection, Twin Cities Tourism Attractions Association and various chambers around the cities. He has also been an active coach and on the leadership committee for Special Olympics Minnesota’s largest delegation – OMGAA Storm.

“I am excited to enhance my role with Invisible Wounds Project to better serve our first responders. There is no other organization out there doing what we do to support all of the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who are doing the jobs we will never fully understand. These groups of community leaders need our help dealing with the things that most people can’t even think about, and the community we are building gives all of these first responders a place to find the support they need and deserve.”

Jessica Keeney, NREMT - Vice Chair

Jessica leads the employee wellness, community outreach, and charitable missions at Lakes Region EMS. She has worked in emergency services for over 18 years in both fire and EMS capacities. During her time as a Critical Care EMT, Jessica worked as a field training officer and was awarded the American Ambulance Association’s Star of Life Award for going above and beyond for her patients and community members. She is the Co-Chair of the Invisible Wounds Project Board and is a member of the Metro Critical Incident Team in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jessica is certified in Individual and Group Crisis Intervention by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. She was also on the Advisory Board for the Blue Peak One Project. She has a genuine and heartfelt desire to empower her emergency service colleagues and their

Marisa Gotsch - Treasurer

Marisa Gotsch’s career in the mortgage lending industry is a testament to her unwavering dedication, determination, and leadership skills. With over three decades of invaluable experience, she has firmly established herself as an expert in her field. Marisa is not only a devoted wife, mother, and business owner but also a passionate advocate for her community, actively supporting causes close to her heart.

Inspired by her husband Darrin’s retirement from law enforcement after faithfully serving the city of Plymouth, MN for 23 years, Marisa embarked on her own path to continue his legacy of service. Following in his father’s footsteps, Marisa’s son Andrew will be attending police academy in Florida to become a police officer—a decision that fills her with immense pride.

As a firm believer in the mission of IWP, Marisa eagerly lends her expertise and unwavering support to further its cause. She serves as a shining example of how dedication, tenacity, and a deep commitment to service can lead to a profoundly gratifying and meaningful life.

Scott Haasl - Board Member

Scott is the owner of Plasti Dip International, a local family owned company that was started by his father 50 years ago. Plasti Dip International manufacturers unique, high quality flexible coatings for DIY and professional users as well as manufacturers around the world. Scott has been a part of the Invisible Wounds Project as a supporter from its inception and is a strong supporter of our military, and first responders. Scott enjoys traveling with his fiancée Allie, spending time with his grandchildren, is an avid collector of unique Ford Mustangs, Music memorabilia, enjoys car events, riding motorcycles, live music and is active in his local church.

Nicole Klanderud - Board Member

Nicole (Nicki) Klanderud has been the Community Engagement Manager for Cambridge Medical Center, a part of Allina Health, for thirteen years. Before that, she was the executive director of the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a communications/public relations degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from St. Mary’s University.

Nicki cherishes time with family and friends. Her husband Tony and their two boys, Tate (16) & Gus (13), enjoy various outdoor activities together, from horseback riding and camping to fishing and riding 4-
wheelers. If you have trouble finding Nicki, she is probably in the barn with her chickens, horses, and pigs. She also finds fulfillment in her volunteer work through 4H, Church, and IWP.

Nicki dedicates most of her time to community health improvement. She gets her energy from the dedicated team members she works with and from building positive relationships in the community. It is
important to Nicki to be involved in projects, committees, and coalitions that impact our community.