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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

Race For A Soldier

A journey through grief to growth

Photos courtesy of On The Run Events

race-for-a-soldier

In 2009, Leslie Mayne received a call that every parent fears. The call informed her that her son Kyle had died.


Like many young men and women, Kyle Marshall Farr enlisted in the Army to serve his country following the attacks of September 11, 2001. During his service, Kyle suffered a concussive brain injury. Beginning in November 2008, he was treated at two different VA hospitals for more than three months for the litany of issues that come with a traumatic brain injury: post-traumatic stress, addiction, nightmares, suicidal intonations, anxiety and depression. In early March 2009, Kyle was told that he was “taking up a bed” and could self-medicate. He was discharged on March 6 and found dead on March 7 from an overdose. Accidental or intentional, the family will never know.


In the aftermath of losing Kyle, Leslie moved away from Gig Harbor to grieve. In 2010, she returned home and began waiting tables at the Tides Tavern. During this time, her family and the many new friends she met at the Tides began to strengthen her resolve to, in her words, “Do something.” Tides manager Kathy Davis asked Leslie to organize a special event called “Buy a Lunch for a Soldier.” On October 15, 2010, a group of Green Berets who were being deployed were celebrated and spoiled. Hugely successful, the event planted the seed of hope in Leslie’s mind to “Do something more.”


Leslie began running as part of her healing journey. As she ran, she envisioned a bold endeavor like a half marathon that could help spread awareness. She talked to Sue Braaten, owner of the Best Western Wesley Inn, who had become a close friend, about the idea. Sue told Leslie she needed to meet Miguel Galeana, owner of local running store Route 16 Running and Walking. The two met and discussed many questions and said, “Let’s continue to talk.” On Leslie’s second visit, she discovered that Jeff Bauknecht, a colleague she had worked with at the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) years earlier, worked with Miguel putting on local races. Their response was, “We’re in!” The three of them had no idea that their journey would capture the attention and energy of the entire community. Race For A Soldier was born.


In its first year, the race attracted more than 1,400 runners with a bold mission to raise awareness for the challenges veterans face dealing with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Following the first race, more than $65,000 was distributed to nonprofits facilitating alternative therapy programs that were improving and, in some cases, saving lives.


Pharmaceutical “drug” treatments and other traditional therapies, although helpful to some, were simply not helping enough. There were too many lives, like Kyle’s, who were slipping through the cracks. Again, in Leslie’s words, “We have to do more, do better.”

From Leslie and Jeff’s work in nonprofits, they began to recognize this was no longer about a race. They were witnessing the birth of an organization. This was a community of compassionate allies willing to step into the gap between the current state of care and the “more” that was needed.


In 2011, as Leslie waited her turn to speak at a suicide awareness conference at Ft. Murray, she noticed a whiteboard with PTSD written on it. Under the letters, it read “Permission To Start Dreaming.” Leslie shared this with Jeff, and they knew their fledgling organization had found its name, The Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation. Over the next two years, a small group of family and friends formed the core of the foundation, and in the spring of 2014, the foundation was granted its official nonprofit 501c3 status.


During the early years, the foundation added a Prayer Breakfast, Golf Tournament and Trap Shoot event, with proceeds funding existing alternative therapy programs showing promising results. In time, a new vision to create a retreat where veterans would learn strategies for developing strength out of their challenges began to take shape. The foundation also expanded its reach to serve first responders.


In 2013, Leslie was introduced to Ken Falke with Boulder Crest Retreat (BCR) in Bluemont, Virginia. Ken, along with Josh Goldberg, coauthors of the book and program, Struggle Well, Thriving in the Aftermath of Trauma, are leaders in discovering new treatments for post-traumatic stress. The BCR team was developing programs to assist veterans in learning strategies for growing through the challenges that accompany their traumatic experiences.


From this work, the Warrior PATHH, “Progressive & Alternative Training Helping Heroes,” was developed as our nation’s first non-clinical, peer-to-peer program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth (PTG). PTG occurs when individuals turn adversity, trauma, or other challenges into positive psychological change. This shift enables an individual to begin to thrive rather than simply survive—not despite but rather because of their experiences.


In 2017, the PTSD Foundation delivered the first Warrior PATHH at Harmony Hill on Hood Canal, facilitated by the BCR team. In December 2019, with support from the Avalon Action Alliance, Ken Falke handpicked nine organizations around the country to be trained in and deliver PATHH in their region. In July 2021, the PTSD Foundation fully implemented the Warrior PATHH Program in the Pacific Northwest through a dedicated team to lead their peers on the journey to post-traumatic growth.


This transformative, lifelong, post-traumatic growth program provides training for combat veterans and first responders to help them make peace with their past, live in the present, and plan for a great future. Participants reveal they are better able to effectively manage life stressors, develop greater flexibility and adaptability to their adversities more effectively, and foster healthier interpersonal relationships.


In many ways, Leslie’s journey has been her own Warrior Path, struggling well through the trauma of losing Kyle and using that experience to grow stronger. Her strength inspired a small network of people who have, in turn, strengthened the lives of thousands of veterans and first responders over the last 13 years.


To learn more about the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation and how you can do more, contact them at PTSDFoundation.org.



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