Giving Veterans and Their Families a Chance to Heal
For many veterans returning home from combat, reconnecting with their families is a challenge. It takes time and understanding to readjust after living apart – often for more than a year – and for many veterans’ families, there is no help.
The Lions Step In
Lions in Minnesota saw a need to help veterans and their families so they worked with Minnesota’s Veteran’s Affairs Department to establish Project New Hope. Through this Lions-funded project, veterans and their families attend retreats free-of-charge and receive time and counseling to reconnect and grow together.
Lions at the camp work hands-on; organizing the retreats, cooking and cleaning, and providing daycare and counseling around the clock. Open to all combat veterans, the Lions are currently working to take the program nationwide.
Receiving Help Leads to Helping Others
After being hit by three roadside bombs during his tour in Iraq, SSG (ret) Mike Mills had burns on 35 percent of his body. Mike and his wife came to one of Project New Hope’s first retreats and received help.
“When you’re in the military, you’re told to suck up and drive on. If you accept help, you’re weak. And if you go for help, you’re going to be passed over for promotion and that’s not true. … We need the help,” said Mike.
Mike and his wife are now Lions and members of the project’s advisory panel.
After donating their time at these retreats, many counselors from the Veterans Administration also became Lions. All of the counselors are veterans, including one active duty major who is on the project’s board of directors. She recently became a Lion as well.
To date, 150 veterans and their families have been helped by these retreats. Retreats have been attended by single veterans, couples and families as large as eight. Leisure activities at the retreats include hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, archery, sledding, fishing, ice fishing, arts and crafts, and more. It takes approximately 10 to 15 Lions to plan and execute each retreat.