Episode 73: Heroes Voices Media Foundation

I hope everyone had a great President’s Day. We are now on the short end of a week and that is always a great feeling. On Monday, we celebrated leaders who served our country. Today, I am thrilled to say we are doing the same by celebrating an amazing organization that serves those who have served, our military. Donald Dunn was a veteran suffering from PTSD when he and a fellow veteran began a podcast to talk about whatever was on their mind. The surprising result was that when they began sharing on their podcast, they began healing.

The result of that healing was wanting to give that experience to other veterans who were suffering and the creation of the nonprofit Heroes Voices Media Foundation. Join me for an inspirational conversation that literally brings me to tears of how one veteran is on a mission to help. Truly one of my favorite conversations!


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Heroes Voices Media Foundation does?

Donald Dunn:  I was podcasting when I realized that I was using podcasting as therapy. And I didn’t realize this until about three quarters of the way through season one. At that point, I just no longer cared whether one person was watching my show or 10,000 because I was starting to feel better about myself.  I was starting to be able to get stuff off my chest that I didn’t talk to anybody else about. As a result, the Foundation came from the podcast.

It started  because of some musicians that came on the show.  I saw how they were struggling getting known, getting views and for me, it didn’t matter. But for them it did, because that was also their income. That’s how they paid their bills.  They were using their songwriting as therapy. The songs that they were singing were about the events that had happened to them in the military. So we started this nonprofit, in the hopes that we could get veterans to continue to keep using these forms of media to heal. There’s a lot of people that think podcasting is simple and easy. And then when they start they realize real quick that there’s a lot of work that goes into it. 

We know that when veterans get frustrated, they walk away from something and either deal with anger, or just try to go find something else.  So our goal is to help them continue to keep podcasting, whether that’s a little bit of education, and or the cost of some of the equipment. . The same goes with our veteran musicians. We’ve got a radio station that is underneath our nonprofit called Gunroom Radio. There’s three different stations: country, a rock channel and folk music. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Heroes Voices Media Foundation?

Donald Dunn: So some of it is just a little bit of luck. I’ve always been one of those guys, that when I get an idea in my head, and I decide to move forward, I don’t change my mind. And so I’m sitting there talking with a few of these veteran artists. And I said, “You know, what we really need is a radio station for veterans. “And they told me about an organization called Operation Encore. And I reached out to them. About that same time, the good old trusty Facebook,  started showing me an advertisement that said, start your own radio station.  And I was like, “Well, that’s it.” It was meant to be, you know, so I signed up and set it all up. Then I realized that it’s a lot more to it than just setting up a radio station.

There’s a bunch of nonprofits that help with PTSD. And I’m not under the illusion that if you’re a podcasting, you’re going to be healed and that’s therapy. But it’s a starting point, it’s a starting point to get you talking. It’s a starting point to get you associating with other like minded veterans, people that you might be able to reach out to. And it’s also integrating you back into society to where you are able to deal with people, because you will have some frustrating moments as a podcaster. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Donald Dunn: The hardest part for me figuring out is how to reach donors because we have a vision that nobody’s ever done.  I knew when I was setting this up that it was going to be an uphill battle. The reason why I knew that is because one of the things that Operation Encore said to me, that made me decide I was going to do this. When they talked to me, it became evident that the only way you were going to get the licensing and everything you needed was it had to become an actual business.

I had just closed my trucking company, and I really wasn’t looking for another business. When I talked to them, he had told me that he has spent two years talking to radio stations, and trying to get them to donate one hour of airtime to just the Operation Encore veteran artists. Wow. And they all told him no. Well, that’s the one thing that stuck in my mind.  

The radio station just grew so fast. I had one veteran artist in May when we launched and we’re now there’s probably 70 to 80 artists on there with 500 songs.  I’m trying to put together a way for everybody to hear their music. And now we need to start breaking up and adding some channels and having different genres.  I wasn’t thinking we’re going to be the next Sirius XM. I was hoping that maybe some guy from the American Legion, or something like that was listening  and could reach out to these artists and book them. If that helps put a little bit of food on their table, and keeps them driving, then that’s a win. I love that it has already done so much.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Donald Dunn: The thing that keeps me driving is I want to get to the point where the veterans are being known for their talent.  Veterans have a very unique way of looking at things. We’re very good at being handed a task and just said, figure it out, and they figure it out. I think that’s why a lot of veterans become entrepreneurs  because they do have that skill set. They don’t necessarily work well with others but they can figure things out on their own. 

When I started looking at this, I already knew there’s all sorts of different PTSD type nonprofits out there. But there’s not a whole lot that highlights the veteran  that succeeded from dealing with all their traumas, and everything else. I want veterans to think I’m gonna go back and live my dream. My dream was to become a musician, a podcaster or whatever their dream is. But they put those dreams on hold for the first 10 to 15 years, whatever they served. And now that they’re at the end of their counterparts careers and they’re trying to start their dream.

And you know, there’s not too many record labels, it’s gonna say, “Hey, you’re 45, I think you’re now ready to become a musician.” Right? And so what fuels me is I want to change that. And I want to change it to the point where there’s not just a CMA, but there’s a VMAs, there’s the Veteran Music Awards, there’s the genres for podcasters. You know, if you look up military podcasts, it’s going to fall under one of two categories, either mental health, or government and politics. And I don’t really think that’s, that’s the way that it should be.  I think that’s what fuels me is I want to get it to where the veteran community has a recognition and a voice.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Donald Dunn: Absolutely. If you went back two years ago, I was that veteran that we were just talking about.  I did not want to leave the house, I did not associate with people.  I didn’t go into Walmart and I had a hard time just functioning as a happy person. I went to the VA, I did get some help. I still did not do well with the therapy, as far as talking, and stuff like that. I just could not relate to that person. And that person definitely did not understand my situation.

When I started this podcast, and as it went through the steps, I kind of hit levels as well. You know, I went from that guy that didn’t want to talk about stories, you know, who was drinking a lot to now I’m that guy that drinks maybe three drinks a week.  I drink when I want to not because I’m trying to go to sleep because I haven’t slept in two days.  And so, and I do credit a lot of that to the getting stuff off my chest and opening up that powder keg and taking some of that stuff out that I have pressed down in, in me.

Then I got to that point where I was able to understand other people’s situations. And I was able to figure out some of my problems. One of the other things that I’ve done is I wrote a book for my kids. I have not published it yet. I’m letting them read it. I just sent it to them a few weeks ago, but it answers all the questions about  why they had this laughing happy go lucky dad. And then by the time they were teenagers, they had another guy that would come home, eat dinner and go straight to the bedroom and stay there until the next morning.

I never thought about the damages that you are also causing when you think you’re protecting your family by not talking about the stuff that has happened. You think you’re shielding them from that. But what you’re really shielding them from is understanding what you’re going through. My wife, for the first two years of this stuff, she didn’t sleep with me for the first two years, because you got tired of getting elbowed and me yelling and screaming for bad dreams. And then she would ask me what I was dreaming about. And I would lie and say, I don’t remember.  I credit the podcast and opening up to where I couldn’t get it to where I felt like, I wanted to share it, so I put it in a book.

Charity Matters: Do you have a phrase or motto that you live by? 

Donald Dunn: Personally, my life changed when I got to the point where I could  embrace the words, it is what it is. And it’s a fine line, because that phrase can also be a crutch and force.  You to just say, well, there’s nothing I can do to change it. But for me, the part that is helped is when you’re holding on to all this baggage.  This stuff that you can’t change, I can’t go back in history and undo the damages that I’ve done. I can’t go back and not go to these deployments and not have all these memories. And for me, when I finally got to that point where I can say,” it is what it is”  and just let it go.

That’s where I started seeing recovery. That really came through from  podcasting when I was talking to other people. And when you get deep into a conversation with another veteran that I didn’t meet until that day, and you’re talking about stuff that I hadn’t even told my wife about. And I completely forgot that it was being recorded, or that it was live or anything, right? Those are the moments.




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Episode 29: Oath to Country Foundation

Today is Veterans Day. A day we honor those who served our country and sacrificed so much for our precious freedom. The story on today’s podcast is an incredible family legacy of service. Justin Gracieux uncovered old documents that showed his grandfather’s 14-year military service during World War II and beyond. However, the official military records of thousands of veterans were destroyed in a 1973 fire. The fire destroyed the major portion of records of Army military personnel for the period 1912 through 1959.  Join us to learn the incredible adventure one grandson has gone on to right a wrong and in the process honor those who have served our country.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Justin has founded the nonprofit organization Oath to Country Foundation to provide support for our Veterans. This inspirational conversation about family, love, and service brought me to tears more than once.  Justin’s story, commitment, and determination to serve those who have so bravely served us is an inspiration for us all. Take a listen.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Oath To Country Foundation does?

Justin Gracieux: Our mission is to foster a community of connectivity and collaboration with partnerships and volunteers to educate on advocate for and strengthen veterans, military, and first responders’ mental health.  We also provide street-side resources for our Veterans that end up homeless in Southern California. Oath to Country Foundation is also sponsoring combat veteran psychotherapy treatment sessions provided by a Board Certified Clinical site Colleges.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Oath to Country Foundation?

Justin Gracieux: The story begins during Covid. in September of 2019, I was at my parent’s house and my mom called me into her room.  She said, “Here’s a folder.”  It was an old vanilla envelope kind of thing. My mom said, ” Open it up and see what you want to do with this?”. So I opened it up. That’s where I found this letter written by my mom when she was 17.

To whom it may concern:

I hope that you can be of help, and refer me to anyone that will read this letter. My father, Joe B. Montoya, was born on June 23, 1927. He was a veteran with more than several honorable discharge certificates that I can remember. My father was a very hard worker and a good father to me. And that is why I’m here today, I vowed that I would have him a burial that he thought he was given. My father has been deceased since October of 1983. I’ll try and make a long story short, there was a fire and I know my father’s discharge paperwork was burned.  When I lost my dad, it was a promise to him to get a copy of his papers and have him a burial service with full honors along with being buried with the veterans of the United States. He now lives in a cemetery, with no one knowing his battle to serve our country.  There was no flag or knowledge of him in the service, with approximately 14 years of his life dedicated to this country. I need someone to help me find his past. My family tried, as long as we could to postpone his burial. And to find his service records.  Photos of him are enclosed.

My mom said, “I called Washington DC, and nobody could hear me cry for help.” So I took this folder, opened it up. I noticed that there was a lot of information that I could use to my advantage to step back into that arena that my mom did at such a young age, to fight for his veteran recognition, and 14 years of service. 

Photo credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

So right around this time, I started interviewing friends and family members who served our country through multiple wars. I started conducting these interviews, to put together these stories. Because the story of my grandfather wasn’t accurately passed down through the generations, I felt as though it was my duty to pay it forward. I needed to tell and archive the stories of these Veterans.

  I remember meeting a gentleman who served in the Navy. Our conversation really opened my eyes to what motivated them to serve. The experiences they had, the fun experiences, and the traumatic experiences. I learned a lot about war and what it has done and what it does to our American soldiers. The PT, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, isolation, and ultimately suicide. This really opened up my heart and my mind, to what it really means to serve. This was the foundation for The Oath to Country Foundation. Shortly thereafter, I filed the paperwork with the State of California in March to start our nonprofit and go full speed ahead. 

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Justin Gracieux: I remember one night, and this is before it was officially filed. I remember praying, I was in bed.  All I could think about was the nonprofit how it’s gonna work.  I had a lot of self-doubt stepping, into this role.  I remember saying, “You know, God,  I’m coming to you because I’m scared. I’m nervous. I don’t I know I have a heart for this. I want to do it. But I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Because I never served.” And I said,” If this is what you want me to do, and to do Your will. I said, just open the doors for me and I will go through them and I will never look back. I said.” Just help me. Help me. Help me see that this is the mission that you want me to serve.”

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Justin Gracieux: We perceive challenges as opportunities, with our nonprofit. We are looking at the glass half full because we have so many opportunities to rewrite the course of history for our heroes.  We can do right in the world,  serve others, and pay it forward and save lives. That is our fuel to our cause because we’re here for the right reasons and we’re here at the right time. We want to have an everlasting impact on the mental health of all of those around us.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had and What has your impact been? 

Justin Gracieux:  Our impact is bringing our community together for various types of programs. Recently,  we hosted our second beach yoga for mental health. We bring together the community, our military, veterans, first responders for a day on the beach.  We’re conducting our 22-mile challenge. So, we either run or walk 22 miles along the California coast. 22 miles for 22 veterans.  I run it with 22 pounds, signifying the lives taken by way of suicide every day. What we’re also doing is we’re sponsoring psychotherapy treatment sessions for our combat veterans. We are sponsoring gym memberships for our first responders, Veterans Military, across various gyms here in Southern California.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Right now we’re running multiple programs. I think one of the more specialized programs that we’re actively involved with daily is, is providing street-side resources for our homeless veterans here in Los Angeles County. Just a couple of weeks ago, we put together approximately $4,000 worth of resources, with items such as hygiene products, clothing, tents, insect repellent supplies, and more.  Living there on the streets has its challenges. So we’re helping our Veterans who sleep on the sidewalks outside the VA with the rodent issue that they’re faced with daily.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for your organization, what would that be?

Justin Gracieux: To end the war on suicide. We’re doing everything we can every day to prevent the next suicide from occurring. I mean, we’re in it for a long fight. We won’t give in we won’t back down. And we have the right people involved in this organization to help accomplish that.  We’re just taking it one day at a time right now because this battle that we’re faced with isn’t easy.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

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

Justin Gracieux:  I’ve learned that it’s our responsibility to honor the legacies that those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for our freedom. It’s our responsibility to continue to honor the names of those that are no longer with us. We have to continue to rely on each other to really continue to amplify the message within our own communities and even in our own households, and really look after one another.

The after-effects of someone taking their lives and those that have to live with it have been affected by it tremendously. I know some individuals that are still impacted by those who have taken their lives, and it breaks my heart to know that they still miss their loved ones. And they always will. It never goes away. So heartbreaking.

Photo Credit: L for Louie the Lens (Monrovia, California)

Charity Matters: Do you have any last message for us on veterans Day?

Justin Gracieux: Let me tell you a little short story. The other day I left work, and I’m literally sitting in the driver’s seat of my truck. To my left, I see this gentleman sort of kind of rocking in his truck. And I was like, that’s a little weird. So I finally looked and this gentleman was looking at the sticker on my truck.  All-around every window of my truck. I have Oath to Country Foundation stickers.  This gentleman’s looking at a sticker. So I finally wrote on my window,  this is a foundation to save our veterans from taking their lives.

And it was just like that because we’re both at a stoplight, he’s about to leave, I’m about to leave. Sure enough, he sits back down. And he turns his face, one eye was missing. He raised his arm to salute me and his hand was missing. When you ask about what motivates our mission? What propels us to keep going?  When we think we’re not moving anywhere, it’s experiences like that, that remind us that God is sending these messengers to us, to keep going and to never back down from this fight. 



New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

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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



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.

Wreaths Across America

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Apologies for the delayed post this week but Christmas and a cold set me back a bit. As usual things happen for a reason because last night as I watched the evening news I came across this beautiful story, that was more than worth a share.

The story is about a couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester from Maine, who own a Christmas wreath business. In 1992, their Worcester Wreath Company found that they had an 5,000 extra wreaths that year. Morrill remembered a childhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery and had always believed that his good fortune and success was in large part due to the values of this country and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This visit was the inspiration for his idea of what to do with the extra wreaths.

Merrill wanted to place a wreath on every grave site at Arlington National Cemetery. So he reached out to his Senator to make arrangements to place the wreaths at Arlington in an older section of the cemetery. This went on for a number of years until in 2005, when the image above of the snow-covered wreaths  went viral and suddenly thousands of people wanted to help. In 2007, Wreaths Across America received their nonprofit status.

In December 2014, Wreaths Across America achieved its goal of placing 226, 525 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Earlier this week on December 16th, close to one million wreaths were laid at 1,000 locations across the United States and beyond. From Bunker Hill, to Valley Forge and to the September 11th site, thousands of fundraising groups, wreath makes, truckers, corporate sponsors  and volunteers contributed  to make this possible.

The Worcester’s hope is that their gesture will inspire us all to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom.

Charity Matters.

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to share this to 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.

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.



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This week’s news certainly seems to be about football and country. While many are talking politics, there is another game involving the two, that is all about strength in the face of adversity. It is the Invictus Games that are happening this week in Canada.


Prince Harry is perhaps an unlikely nonprofit founder.  In 2013, while he was on a trip to the United States visiting the Warrior Games, Harry saw how the power of sport helped to heal physically, physiologically and socially. In that moment, he decided to create the Invictus Games to be an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service personnel.


The word Invictus means unconquered and the purpose of these games is to harness the power of sport to inspire recovery. This week over 550 competitors will gather from over 17 countries to compete in eight days of fierce competition.

Prince Harry wanted to honor those that he has served with and all military service men and women around the world in hopes of creating a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.  The motto of the games is based on a poem entitled “Invictus” which says, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

As Prince Harry said, “These games have shown the unconquerable character of service men, women and their families Invictus spirit.  These games show the very best of the human spirit.”  Here is to an amazing week of recognizing those who serve and cheering them on!

Charity Matters.

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Not on Our Watch….

In the town I grew up in, we have the most beautiful bridge, that was built in 1913. I drive over this bridge almost daily, its architecture and views bring me such joy. The bridge’s most recent fame was being feature in LaLa Land. However, over the years the Colorado Street Bridge has sadly become famous for something much more tragic and that is for suicide. Many locals refer to the bridge as suicide bridge because of the long history associated with it. Seventy-nine people jumped off that bridge following the Great Depression and sadly, many have followed in the years sense.

This month is Suicide Prevention Month. A sad and depressing topic that many do not want to discuss, but the reality is that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. An even more shocking statistic is that 22 Veterans commit suicide EVERYDAY.

Photo credit: Pasadena Weekly

When I heard that a local nonprofit, Wellness Works, that works with veterans healing PTSD, was bringing in hundreds of veterans to patrol The Colorado Street Bridge with a mission of promoting awareness about suicide and veterans, I knew I needed to do the same. For three days, 24 hours a day, in an event called Not on Our Watch, these veterans will walk to hold a vigil to honor those that have died and to offer hope to those that feel there isn’t any.

Today when I drive across that bridge, I will think of those who have so bravely served our country and say a prayer for those still suffering. My hope is that they are brave enough to reach out for help.

Charity Matters.


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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.



Push up challenge


Last year this time it was the ice bucket challenge to bring awareness to MLS and this year the challenge no longer involves ice but push-ups…..22 push-ups to be exact. I have been challenged to do the 22 push-ups a day by a friend of mine to bring awareness to the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day across this country due to PTSD.

In 2012 a Veteran’s report came out releasing the shocking statistic about our veterans and suicide. In 2013 a non-profit called Honor Courage Commitment began to spread the word about this epidemic amongst veterans. In July 2015, the non-profit split into an additional non-profit called # 22Kill. 22Kill’s mission is to create a global movement that will bridge the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support.


A bucket of ice last August helped spread international awareness and raise millions for ALS. Today, 22 push-ups a day to bring awareness to the suffering of millions of our veterans, is a small sacrifice and privilege to help those who have served us so bravely. Join us, in honoring those who have served us.


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.