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Honoring our Veterans with Higher Ground

Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day. 

Charles B. Rangel

Today is Veteran’s Day, a day that our nation comes together to honor those who have served our country. Brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free.  According to statistics, twenty-two veterans die each day in the United States from suicide. I was thrilled when I had the privilege of connecting with Kate Weihe, the Executive Director of an amazing organization called Higher Ground that serves our veterans and their spouses and supporters through amazing outdoor experiences as they adapt and learn to deal with their disabilities. In addition to Kate, I spoke to Higher Ground’s Director of Military Programs and a veteran himself, Rich Cardillo. An inspiring and emotional conversation that had me in tears a few times. The passion that Rich has for the veterans he works with was palpable.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Higher Ground does?

Kate Weihe: We enhance the quality of life for people of ALL abilities. Our biggest programs are with our veterans, their trauma, PTSD and we exist to serve and support them.  Our mission is to use recreation, therapy, and support to give people of all abilities a better life. Together we build the bridge between disability and belonging. One of our biggest programs is working with Veterans and active duty service members with traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress syndrome, military sexual trauma, and other military trauma. We serve people with disabilities from ages 2-101 and we do this by using outdoors and nature along with family, friends, and community to support them.

Rich Cardillo: As a veteran, myself, who wanted to continue to serve veterans and servicemen in any capacity after I left the service. What drew me to Higher Ground in 2013 was the care and passion for people. We are now a staff of twenty-four and we are fully committed to enhancing our veteran’s lives as well as the local non-veteran community, here in Sun Valley, Idaho and in our other chapters in New York and LA.

Charity Matters:  Tell us a little about Higher Ground began?

Kate Weihe: Higher Ground began as an adaptive arm of the Sun Valley, Idaho Ski School. There was a local skier who had Multiple Sclerosis and wanted to get on the mountain again and there was not an instructor or equipment to take her. We began in 1999 when Mark Mask, our founder, talked the resort into getting their first sit-ski.  Kara Barrett who was there from the beginning developed all of our programs that initially were based on skiing and that evolved to a summer camp for children with cognitive disabilities.  In 2004, when we started seeing our Veterans coming home with PTSD  and we pivoted to embrace or veteran community. Initially, we were working with Veterans who were visually impaired from their service and then that translated into the invisible injuries of war. Today, we continue to have winter programs and summer family camps and a host of outdoor programs for our veterans as well as others with disabilities.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Rich Cardillo: Our biggest challenge is trying to help the volume of veterans that still need our services. We are such a small organization compared to some other larger veteran based organizations. We want to grow our programs to continue to chip away at an insurmountable number of veterans. The financial need for expansion is critical. We are looking at alternative ways to reach more veterans and at the same time while trying to save money. Currently, Veterans come to us but we are beginning to fly our teams to them. We know that one of the true benefits of the program is the community they establish during their time with us.  We want them to be able to go back home and have others in their community that they call can call up and say let’s go do something together. 

Kate Weihe: I think our biggest challenge is to make sure that we continue to have exceptional programs and consistency as we scale and expand.

Charity Matters: What fuels to keep doing this work?

Kate Weihe: Undoubtedly, being with our program participants and seeing how effective our work is. When we hear from Veterans and their testimonials proving that our work truly made a difference for them and even better is hearing from them years later when they share that they are thriving. The other piece that fuels me is our exceptional staff.

Rich Cardillo: Having the opportunity to be a part of this process of witnessing the transformation that happens in the five days of our program. We get to witness our veterans become more of themselves and work with their partner or spouse to deal with their injury. It fills me up.

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a difference?

Rich Cardillo:  For me those moments are emotionalI retired from the military in 2008 and told my wife that we screwed up thirty years of our lives serving our country on active duty. My wife said, “What are you talking about?” I told her she needed to come witness the transformations that happen on our programs and see the changes being made, for me that is my life. The work we are doing at Higher Ground. fills my cup. When you can be a part of that change and know that you have made an impact on someone’s life it is powerful.

Kate Weihe: Rich gets to witness life-changing experiences in his work with our Veterans. In 2010, I received an email from one of our veterans who was one of the toughest people and stories you have ever heard. He was completely broken when he came to us and faced a lot of challenges. Today he is thriving and the long term impact of our work is why we do this. 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your success and impact at Higher Ground?

Kate Weihe: We are a quality over quantity organization that focuses on individuals. We transform veterans’ lives being in the outdoors with the people they love and we are able to lend a unique and heartfelt way to help them find their own fulfillment. We do a lot of connecting our veterans with their family members and we are lending a unique way to help people realize their own potential.

Rich Cardillo: Our impact is only three words, we enhance lives. Whether it is a Veteran or a non-veteran that has an injury, everything we do makes their lives better. We know we have made an impact even if we have improved one component of their lives, even one piece is huge. I do know that what we do gives our veterans a better quality of life moving forward.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for Higher Ground what would it be?

Kate Weihe: My dream would be that we would no longer have a waitlist for our programs. We serve 200 Veterans in our Military Program a year and we have over 1,000 on our waitlist. 

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Rich Cardillo: I think for me personally a life lesson is have learned the importance of communication and having the ability to have a real conversation. We give our veterans the tools to do this and it’s called a win-win, so in the course of a conversation, no one loses.  In the end, both people involved in a conversation can feel good about themselves. For me, my life lesson is definitely communication.

Kate Weihe: I think overall in the bigger bucket my perspective has changed. Every time when I have had a rough day, I am reminded how lucky we are. Spending time with our veterans gives me gratitude on a daily basis. I know talking to my friends and family that they do not have that same opportunity that I have in my work. I am so grateful and so fortunate for the life I have been given. Now I can share that with others, a whole lot of gratitude.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Kate Weihe: I think I’ve grown up a lot. I think I have learned to move a little bit slower and reflect more and take time to step back and be more compassionate.

Rich Cardillo: Higher Ground has shown me that there is hope. We are doing the right things for the right people. This work has reinforced my hope in humanity and that has come from our donors, our volunteers, and our veterans. They all remind me every day of the fact that people want to do the right thing and that gives me hope.

Charity Matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2019 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Celebrating our Veterans and Wellness works

Over the years I have interviewed and profiled a number of amazing organizations that serve our troops and veterans, Hugs for Heroes, Operation Gratitude, Veterans Career Exchange, and the list goes on. All fantastic organizations that have served our men and women abroad or helped returning Veterans get jobs once they were out of the military. However in all my interviews, I have yet to meet an organization that’s main focus is  to restore hope and a sense of wholeness of body and soul turning their post traumatic stress into post traumatic growth, until now. The place is Wellness Works, a home for healing  and hope.

Last week, I sat down with the Co-Founder, Mary Lu Coughlin, of the non-profit Wellness Works to learn more about the journey our Veterans go through and the story of this amazing non-profit that continues healing our Veterans. Today we celebrate Veterans Day and all those who gave so bravely for our freedom. It is the perfect time to share about the remarkable work that is being done to support the Veteran community and their families. This video (that sadly isn’t embedding but you can old school click the link) gives you a deeper dive into Wellness Works impact on Veterans.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Wellness Works?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Beginning in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my Co-Founder Nancy was teaching wellness education workshops and holistic healing therapies to nurses mainly to help healing with the large AIDS/HIV population at the time. Our goal was always to he a source of healing and service to the community.  As medications became available for AIDS patients our client focus began to shift, September 11th happened, the war began and then in 2005  when we read Dr. Ed Tick’s book War and The Soul about healing Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. We knew that we had a healing skills that could help our Veterans and their families.

Soldiers began coming home in 2006 and we knew our healing community needed to support and love these Veterans and give them a place that felt like home. 

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work in serving our Veterans?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. I know that when we (Wellness Works) have a tangible felt experience and love can come thru us to our Veterans that we are an instrument of healing.

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a difference?

Mary Lu Coughlin: When veterans come through our door they feel welcome, they feel at home, they know their invisible wounds are seen and they are not judged. When I over hear one veteran telling another,” I am finally home thanks to Wellness Works.” 

Another veteran, who now serves on our board, said on his second visit to Wellness Works that, “his life’s purpose had been restored. He now had a community with which he could once again strive to serve the greater good.”

Charity Matters:What do want people to think about this Veteran’s Day?

Mary Lou Coughlin: This Veterans Day gives us as a caring community and society, the opportunity to acknowledge the service of the many men and women who have served us so well.

Charity Matters.

 

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

American Women Veterans

americanwomensveterans-org

Today is Veterans Day and the day that we celebrate all of those amazing men and women who have served our country. Last week I had the privilege of speaking with one incredible veteran and her name is Genevieve Chase. At only 38, she has served two tours in Afghanistan, is the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge, and is the Founder of AmericanWomensVeterans.org

Genevieve had trained for two years as a counter intelligence agent and was in Afghanistan for only two months, in April 2006, when a car bomb detonated and changed her life forever. She and her team survived but suffered varying degrees of traumatic brain injuries. She told me, “Angels watched over us and I knew I survived that bomb for a reason.” 

At the end of 2007, Genevieve came home, depressed, unsure about her purpose and began volunteering for another military non-profit. She began to realize that women veterans where not being heard, served or listened too. More importantly she discovered that there are 2.2 million women veterans in the United States.

In December 2008, Genevieve and her sister (shown above) put a call out on Facebook to any women Veteran’s in New York City to come join them for breakfast and thirteen women did. As she listened to stories about their shame to be a veteran, the way they were treated or ignored she knew something had to be done and that was the beginning of AmericanWomenVeterans.org

eve-chase

Today, almost eight years later the American Womens Veterans has become a change agent for women veterans. Genevieve has testified before U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Veteran Affairs Committee to bring change and attention to these incredible women who have served. The American Womens Veterans is proud that they have helped to bring women’s health care to every VA facility in the country, helped acknowledge women veterans who were not allowed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and continue to shine a light on the remarkable role that women veterans have played and continue too, as they serve our country.

As we honor all of our veterans today, we need to remember that not every GI is a Joe.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Real service, Veterans Day

Veterans Day

Today, we celebrate Veterans Day. We honor, remember and salute all of those who have shown us what real service is. I talk about service every week and don’t get me wrong, volunteering is important, but to serve, to give your life, your time and complete commitment to ensuring your country’s freedom…well that is service at an entirely different level.

So today, we salute you, our veterans….thank you for showing us all what real service is.

God bless America and all our servicemen and women.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Veterans continue service:Team Rubicon

Team RubiconVeterans Day was monday,we hung our flags, enjoyed our holiday and remembered those who served. For most Veterans service never ends and the call to serve is all they know. This week that call to serve is in the Philippines. That is exactly where the veterans who make up the nonprofit, Team Rubicon will be heading on their next mission.

The mission is exactly where Team Rubicon began. Two Marines who met in sniper school, Jacob Wood and Clay Hunt returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other Veterans who were no longer sure of their purpose. That all changed when an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. Jacob Wood, Clay Hunt and a host of other Veterans decided to deploy to heal others in need and in the process began to heal themselves. That was the beginning of Team Rubicon.

On the streets of Haiti these Veterans realized they were onto something, and that was  that “natural disasters present many of the same problems that confront troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: unstable populations, limited resources, horrific sights, sounds and smells.  The same skills cultivated on those same battlefields – emergency medicine, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork and decisive leadership – are invaluable in disaster zones.” Who can rally better than our troops?

Since January 2010 Team Rubicon has rallied its team of veterans to Haiti, Chile, Burma, Pakistan, Sudan, and here at home, in Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, and Alabama. On monday, this past Veterans Day, those who have served us boarded planes to the Philippines…..where they will continue to do what they do, serve.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

 

Hugs project

Marines_-_Will_Work_For_HugsWith Veterans Day approaching on monday, I thought it was a good time to look at the amazing work people do in this country to support our military. In my quest, I came across over 8,000 non-profits that support our troops but this one stood out because of one remarkable lady and a hug.

Her name is Karen Stark and she is the founder of  The Hugs Project. In 2004, Karen and her husband Ray, wanted to make sure that every American service member knew they were loved and appreciated for all they do. The couple first wrote to one soldier who was suffering from depression, he then asked them if they could write to another young soldier. Before they knew it they were sending care packages and writing to many troops overseas. Then the Starks had heard that many soldiers were suffering from severe heat exhaustion, so they began making “hugs” which are bandannas filled with crystals that can soak up two cups of water. The soldiers wear these around their neck to keep cool and the ties are affectionately called “hugs.”

 

Karen said ,”We never intended to send anything more than ” we respect what you are doing” emails but the need was there.”  Those emails and cooling ties turned into care packages and now almost a decade later The Hug Project is still going strong. To date the organization is in 50 states and 17 countries around the world, and has sent tens of thousands of care packages and hugs to our troops. Karen and her husband are making the world better, one hug at a time.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Veterans Day

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who gave us the freedom to demonstrate

It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag.

And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2RwRi2TjA0]

Today is the day that we observe Veterans Day and this year it could not come at a better time. Our country is divided from this past election between Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, black and white…..but none of these matter. What matters is that we are all Americans before we are anything else.

Today, lets take a moment to honor all of those men and women who have sacrificed to give us this great nation. They are more than mere names on a wall, they were fathers, sons and most of all American heroes we proudly call veterans. God Bless you all!

 Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.