As Project Sanctuary celebrates Recreation Therapy Month, we would be remiss not to showcase one of our own superstars, Missy Hyatt, Chief Programming Officer.
Missy’s journey to stardom begins with her and her husband’s relocation to the Denver area in 2010 for his job. Missy had graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelors degree in Leisure Studies, and an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation, and was anxious to find a position in her field of study. Unfortunately, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, she settled for a position with a local Early Childhood Learning Center.
About a year later, her husband ran across some information about Project Sanctuary and encouraged Missy to send a resume. She decided to do one better and physically drive her resume to the “business address” only to discover it was the home of Founder and CEO, Heather Ehle. Now what!? Not having a dedicated mailbox, she ended up mailing her information stating she wanted to be part of the organization and help plan the Youth Program. Heather couldn’t pass up this kind of enthusiasm and Missy was hired as the Youth Program Coordinator developing curriculum for the Youth Program and attending daily recreation to assist the families.
Missy’s dedication and skillset didn’t keep her in this minimal role for long. In 2012 she was promoted to the Director of Programs and Special Events directly responsible for scheduling and programming every therapeutic retreat along with the task of managing volunteers.
In the midst of all this new responsibility, Missy and her husband welcomed their son in 2014. Things were definitely picking up for Project Sanctuary with approximately 25 retreats across the country and staff increases were needed to help support Project Sanctuary and this growth. At this time, Missy brought on new staff members to help with retreat logistics, as well as additional therapeutic staff, while still being the only team member developing all adult and youth programs for the retreats. Whew!
“I couldn’t be prouder or more blown away by the pace and professional development I’ve seen from Missy throughout the years”, stated Heather. We couldn’t have the variety and level of programs we do without her”.
By 2018, Missy had rock starred her way to Chief Programming Officer and a long list of staff on the company’s organizational chart consisting of:
- Operations staff to handle family scheduling, inventory and data management, and data collection;
- Programmers and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS);
- Retreat Managers;
- Logistics Managers;
- Kitchen Managers;
- and eleven counselors
Not a career/ladder climbing kind of gal, Missy grew with the company and stated “it scaled at a good pace. As I needed people, I was able to grow the departments and find amazing people with the guidance Heather provided”.
If you ask Missy, “what makes you smile inside”, she’d reply “I love recreation! Adventure, art, hiking, etc. and love being able to provide that to other people. There’s lots of great non-profits out there doing impactful things. One thing that sets us apart is providing three levels of “adventure” experiences for the military families we serve at our therapeutic retreats”.
Each one of Project Sanctuary’s retreats provides:
- High adventure like snowmobiling, white water rafting, ziplining, etc.
- Mid-level experiences like horseback riding, rope courses and climbing walls
- Community activities at retreat locations such as rec centers, swimming pools, bowling, and scavenger hunts
These programs allow families to reconnect and strengthen their relationship together as a family. Project Sanctuary also hosts three Couples Only retreats per year.
Heather adds, “Project Sanctuary could not continue to grow and successfully help the individuals and at-risk military families we do without Missy, her expertise in program creation and the great people she has on her team”.