May is the time many Gig Harbor locals mark their calendars and prepare for a day trap shooting at the Pull for a Soldier event. This year, due to COVID-19, the event is rescheduled for October 30, giving us all a little extra time to sharpen our aim. This year marks the fourth year of the event, started by the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation with community leader and former board member Scott Sabo, owner of LaborWorks.
Sabo wanted to contribute to helping provide better outcomes and alternative measures for vets returning from service. It was a cause that particularly struck a chord with him, as his father was a Vietnam War vet. He enjoyed trap shooting and thought it would make a good fundraising and community event for the foundation, and so Pull for a Soldier was born.
“What’s cool about the Pull for a Soldier is you don’t have to have any real experience,” says Permission to Start Dreaming Founding Director Leslie Mayne. “The wonderful men at the Sportsman’s Club, they're all trainers. It’s competitive as well, but anyone can do it.” The event is always held on a Friday and is a great opportunity for companies to get their employees together for a worthy cause.
Permission to Start Dreaming started with its first event in 2011: Race for a Soldier. “It was an attempt to not only get community involved and offer an opportunity for people to run an event as a challenge to themselves but also to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” says Mayne.
In 2010, Mayne was facing the loss of her son as a result of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. “I was really just a grieving mom that sort of wanted to just shake up the consciousness of our community to understand that we had far too many men and women that were serving our country and we were not receiving them as we should,” recalls Mayne. “When they were coming home, we were not managing their mental health and wellness.”
Post 9/11 saw an extraordinary level of suicide and reckless behavior from veterans returning home, and there were few programs to address the underlying issues. Mayne felt there had to be an alternative way to address the crisis, and she started Permission to Start Dreaming.
The organization soon realized that first responders suffered a similar type of trauma, and expanded to include law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders in their programs, with a mission to help them realize they still had hope. “They can still live a life of passion and purpose. It doesn’t have to be your life sentence,” says Mayne. “There can be great growth from traumatic events if you find the right resources.”
Besides the Pull for a Soldier, the organization offers three other events each year: Swing for a Soldier on July 6 at Canterwood Golf and Country Club; Race for a Soldier on September 13, with half marathon, 10-mile and 5k runs to help support veterans and first responders; and the annual Prayer Breakfast featuring individual speakers. This year’s will be on September 11 and open to the entire community. It will be an incredibly moving morning, says Mayne. “Every soldier has a story. The more they tell their stories, the more our community comes to understand what it means to put on that uniform and go serve.”
Money raised from the events goes to help support Permission to Start Dreaming and its many services. The organization offers monthly huddles in Gig Harbor and Tacoma and plans to start one in Bremerton as well. Huddles are opportunities for veterans and first responders to find community and healing. “You come as you are, there’s no judgment,” says Mayne.
The huddles also help the foundation reach individuals who need more resources and help. They now provide a mental health professional trained in PTSD and trauma who works on the organization’s behalf and are repositioning themselves to be able to deliver a dynamic growth program to this area in 2021. In addition, the organization puts on four workshops each year, the next on May 16 and 17 is an equine assisted couples’ growth retreat.
In addition to Mayne, Community Outreach Director Karen Dougil and Director of Operations Fenny Friis are full-time employees dedicated to the mission of the foundation. “They make this foundation and the events happen,” says Mayne. A committed board of local veterans, law enforcement and business men and women volunteer in any way they can. “They’re all super engaged and they love being a part of it because they see we’re making a small difference. That’s success,” says Mayne.
Permission to Start Dreaming’s mission goes beyond the first responders and veterans they serve. “The families that are left in the wake and behind are the ones that we need to care about as well,” says Mayne. “If we can get our first responders healthy and find ways to deal with the trauma they deal with daily, then that’s a healthy family, and they come back and continue to serve in amazing ways. It’s incumbent on all of us as citizens to care about their mental health and wellness.”
To learn more, register for an event, or volunteer, visit PTSDFoundation.org.