An Epidemic of Hope
Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation starts Warrior PATHH program
By Abigail Thorpe
Photo Courtesy of Boulder Crest Foundation
“I think we’re going to create an epidemic of hope rather than discouragement,” says Leslie Mayne, founding director of the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation (PTSDF). Since its first event in 2011, Mayne has been working to help veterans and first responders access effective, long-term solutions to transform post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. Their vision? For every veteran, first responder and their families to live a fulfilled life within reach of their dreams, and for every American to have the will to make it a reality.
In 2013, Mayne was in Bluemont, Virginia, and saw a beautiful sign and arch for the Boulder Crest Retreat Program for combat veterans. The program, which has since grown into Warrior PATHH, approaches post-traumatic stress in an alternative way, through training that cultivates and facilitates post-traumatic growth in combat veterans and first responders, enabling them to transform their struggle into strength.
Many combat veterans and first responders have been through exceptionally traumatic circumstances, and they have deep-seeded trauma that becomes a daily struggle in their lives. “We know for those who serve and protect their country, most of them don’t ask for help or they don’t feel like they’re in a position to raise their hand,” explains Mayne. For many, there is a stigma around mental health and wellness that, unfortunately, is often perpetuated by communities and available health resources. “What’s so beautiful about the Warrior PATHH program, by the end of the week, that stigma has been broken,” she adds.
Mayne started the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation after her son, an Army Private First Class who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, died from an overdose after struggling with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. For Kyle, the treatment was psychotropic drugs. But there’s another approach, and Warrior PATHH is forging the way.
The 18-month program begins with a seven-day intensive initiation, followed by 18 months of support and training that helps veterans and first responders place their trauma in its rightful place to move forward to full and successful lives. “You really are cleansing your mind, body and spirit of those things that have really locked you in a negative space,” says Mayne.
Now, the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation has been selected as the ninth site of 20 around the country to offer the Warrior PATHH program to veterans and first responders. Before, the foundation sent veterans to other locations to participate in the program, but now they look forward to making it a blessing to the Pacific Northwest through their partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Avalon Network.
“This Warrior PATHH program is absolutely working, the data is showing that it’s working,” says Mayne. “They can learn to take these invisible wounds and truly transform them into their strengths.”
Any combat veteran or first responder dealing with processing extreme trauma can apply for the program, including active servicemen and women, and there are a series of phone conversations to determine eligibility. “The only requirement is that you want to do the work, you want to get better, you want to put that trauma in its rightful place behind you,” adds Mayne.
In the seven-day intensive on-site initiation, participants learn valuable tools like meditation, explore their family of origin, lay down their burdens, and participate in a variety of activities designed to release trauma and teach healing, coping and growth. During this time, they are nurtured with amazing food and opportunities for true rest.
For the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, a national mobile training team came on-site to help train and start the Warrior PATHH program in the area. The foundation is currently in the process of hiring their own team, including a program director, who will train virtually in June and July, and start to run their own Warrior PATHH program at the end of July.
Throughout the rest of the year, they plan to offer seven PATHH programs, with monthly program offerings starting in 2022. “This program is saving lives, and its saving marriages, and its saving families and communities,” explains Mayne. The PATHH program and other offerings from the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation are designed to help veterans make peace with the past. “If we can make peace with it, we can move forward with hope and purpose and love,” she adds.
The Warrior PATHH program is free for participants, but it takes the entire community to help make it possible. “I just think it’s incumbent upon us as a community and civilians to do whatever we can, to lift them up and help them in whatever way,” encourages Mayne. “Really, if they get strong ... that only strengthens our communities.”
Throughout the year, Permission to Start Dreaming hosts events like Pull for a Soldier, Swing for a Soldier and Race for a Soldier that help fund the Warrior PATHH program, with help from donations, volunteers and community support.
“We're still doing our events, and we hope they will be as big and bold as they can be, because that’s our source of fundraising, and it does take a lot of money to put this on,” says Mayne.
For the men and women who go through Warrior PATHH, it’s life changing. The difference between a life of hope and one of despair, and each of us in the community can be a part of helping make that transformation possible. “They come out of this program reminding themselves that their best days are ahead,” notes Mayne. “In these past two weeks, I personally witnessed six women and eight men’s remarkable transformation after participating in WP. They are now ready to experience stronger and deeper relationships, new possibilities, an increased sense of gratitude in life, spiritual growth and a renewed sense of personal strength. They will go forward and continue to serve their communities and country. I am a believer.”
To learn more about Warrior PATHH and the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation, visit PTSDFoundation.org.