Project Sanctuary Launches “Walton’s Warriors” Peer Mentoring Program
Unique, 10-month mentorship program aims to empower military veterans by focusing on recovery, resilience and suicide prevention training
GRANBY, CO (February 21, 2017) – Project Sanctuary, a Colorado-based nonprofit providing therapeutic retreats for military families, has launched a new peer-to-peer mentoring program aimed at improving recovery and resilience, and, ultimately, reducing suicides among veterans. Veterans make up less than nine percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 18 percent of all suicides in America, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Walton’s Warriors is a 10-month training program designed to equip veterans with the skills they need to provide support to fellow veterans struggling with such issues as PTSD and reintegration into civilian life.
The program was inspired by Brian Walton, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, who had attended a Project Sanctuary retreat with his family, but unfortunately, succumbed to his PTSD in March 2016. Many of Project Sanctuary’s veterans reached out to offer help after Brian’s suicide, which prompted founder and CEO Heather Ehle to search for programs that could better train them on how to provide support. Walton’s Warriors was born after her search failed to yield any comprehensive, clinically-based options.
“When Bonnie Walton reached out to me in March 2016, and asked how she would tell her four sons that Brian wasn’t coming home, I knew that whatever it took, Project Sanctuary had to do more to prevent the unbearable pain that this family was experiencing,” said Ehle. “Our veterans want to stop the suicide epidemic – they simply need the tools and the ongoing support to be able to help themselves while they help others.”
Walton’s Warriors includes both in-person and online training delivered by licensed professionals and veteran coaches, following a structured, evidence-based curriculum. Participants will learn about therapeutic communication, red flags to watch out for and the importance of confidentiality and setting boundaries. They’ll also receive training on critical self-care skills.
“They can’t be effective mentors unless they take care of themselves,” noted Ehle, who expects many of the participants to return as coaches for the program in subsequent years.
The program kicks off with 21 veterans from ten different states at a retreat February 23-26, near Santa Cruz, Calif. Those Walton’s Warriors will then correspond weekly with coaches and facilitators, and will also be invited to participate in monthly educational opportunities. A second retreat is planned for May 3-6 in Grand Lake, Colo., with participants slated to graduate from the program in November.
Walton’s Warriors is sponsored by the Infinite Hero Foundation. Thanks to the Foundation’s support, 25 veterans will receive training through the initial program.
“At Infinite Hero, we believe that mental and physical rehabilitation for our veterans can and must be better. Our heroes deserve it, and we will deliver it. Infinite Hero looks for the impossible challenges and drives through to find solutions. We define the problems veterans are facing, empower collaboration across sectors and inject targeted investments into innovations that have the power to revolutionize the way we treat the injuries of war,” said Colin Baden, founder and board president of the Infinite Hero Foundation.
Project Sanctuary focuses on strengthening military families during the stressful times of deployment, transition and reintegration, offering retreats nationwide. In 2017, the organization will offer 27 retreats to serve military families and will also continue outreach to the 1,800 families on its wait list to provide pre-retreat assessment and crisis intervention. Project Sanctuary uses the A.R.T. model – Assess (pre-retreat support services), Reconnect (six-day therapeutic retreat for the whole family), and Thrive (two years of follow-up services). The program is unique in its treatment of the family as a unit while also working with each family member individually to assess their needs. The overall goal is easing the reconnection of families previously distanced as a result of deployment and military service, including resultant injuries.