Heather Ehle founded Project Sanctuary in 2007 while working as a registered nurse after she discovered no organization was helping the military family as a unit.
Heather founded the organization on the principle that when one person serves, the whole family serves, and the best way to support the troops was to create an organization supporting the entire family.
What began as one retreat boot-strapped together in the mountains of Colorado has since grown into a national organization serving thousands of at-risk military families across the country.
Today, we are proud to be one of the only organizations focused on mental health, serving veterans, spouses, caregivers, and children as a family unit with a fully licensed and professional staff. That is our difference.
Veterans have a 50% higher risk of dying by suicide than civilians. Active duty suicide rates have reached an all-time high since 2012, and 123 military spouses succumbed to suicide in 2017. Military families relocate every other year, isolating spouses and children and making it even more difficult to cope with the challenges and stress of military life.
Project Sanctuary’s mission is more critical than ever.
Military and veteran families face unique hardships unlike their civilian peers, but like their peers want to succeed, function as a healthy family unit, and participate in their local community. Many of those who have served now live with visible and invisible injuries such as Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The challenges facing military and veteran families have not decreased in recent years. In fact, the COVID pandemic, the recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and the conflict in Ukraine have led to increased depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.
A 2021 research article estimated “30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide, significantly more than the 7,057 service members killed in post- 9/11 war operations.”
52% of veterans reported their mental health worsening because of the isolation during COVID. When asked their feelings on the Afghanistan withdrawal, 73% of veterans felt betrayed and 67% felt humiliated.
Military spouse unemployment increased from approximately 24% to 38% because of the COVID pandemic.
Believing that when one person serves the whole family serves, Project Sanctuary takes a human-centered, solution-based approach to helping military families heal and move forward in life. Through innovative long-term programming focused on connectedness, we restore hope and empower families to recover and thrive.
Project Sanctuary believes that everyone has the right and the ability to heal. We assist military service members by reconnecting the family unit through a holistic approach. Our program heals the traumatic effects of military service, treating all members of the family at their level of need and enabling the service members to reintegrate into their families and communities in a healthy and sustainable manner. Project Sanctuary’s work preserves the family unit, strengthening the community, the military, and the country.
In 2018, Clemson University published the first study demonstrating the long-term impacts of Project Sanctuary’s therapeutic recreation program.