Although the ability to hold events has been hamstrung by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past eight months, the Home Base Southwest Florida team partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital Infectious Disease Department and carefully followed Florida State guidelines to safely hold an in-person event for Veterans, Service Members, and Families at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary.
This event was part of Home Base Southwest Florida’s Adventure Series, a series of free events throughout the year aimed at strengthening military family bonds before, during and after deployment. Veterans and their Families can explore a new sport, connect with other military families, and learn more about the clinical services, education, and research offered by Home Base SWFL.
This is the third time Home Base SWFL has partnered with the Shy Wolf Sanctuary for an Adventure Series event. Shy Wolf Sanctuary is a refuge for a cougar, numerous wolves and wolfdogs, as well as several exotic species of fox. To date, Shy Wolf has rescued over 1,260 animals and provided valuable educational experiences to tens of thousands of human visitors from around the world. Far more than rescue and sanctuary, Shy Wolf has been offering educational programs and therapeutic animal encounters for more than twenty years.
Through Shy Wolf’s Healing Hearts Program, the Adventure Series participants were introduced to the sanctuary’s rescued residents that often come from abused, abandoned and neglected situations.
“I believe the Healing Hearts Program offers Veterans an opportunity to learn about animals who have gone through hardships and tough times, letting the Veterans draw on what they may have experienced,” said April Radcliffe, Shy Wolf’s School Education Coordinator and tour guide for the day. “The Healing Hearts Program provides Veterans an opportunity to bond with animals and then to invest in their community. Giving to others is a proven way to increase emotional well-being and the veterans were able to accomplish something concrete for us.”
And the program did just that.
One Veteran participant was initially hesitant about coming out to this Adventure Series event because they weren’t sure how being around the wolves would be. However, at the end of the event, they were thrilled they decided to attend.
“I think this Adventure Series has been beneficial emotionally, as I was able to connect with nature, the animals, and the other Veterans,” said Suali Mendez, a U.S. Navy Veteran. “I think that is a beautiful thing.”
If you are interested in learning more about hosting an event for or to benefit Veterans, contact Jason Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in the Southwest Florida Warrior Health and Fitness program, click here. If you are interested in learning more about Home Base SWFL’s Outpatient Clinical Program, click here.