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Our Hero's Dreams
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Please, click on the link (left) to visit the Our Heroes’ Dreams YouTube video and in just minutes, learn why this program is so important and worthy of your support.

Did you Know:

- 44 states have reported over 6500 veteran suicides per year due to PTSD and/or post-war injuries.

- Loss of mission and readjustment into society leaves many soldiers lost and without a cause.

- Multiple tours further complicate the problem, making a soldiers return to and from society and war a difficult process.

- Most soldiers return to find themselves struggling for a position in their family units that they’ve been away from for so long.

- Many return from a “defending” roll to a “depending” roll due to life altering injuries and/or trauma.

- They did what they did for us; all of us. They suffer today for having done so. Now they need our help and we need to be there for them.

A warm and heart felt story led us to this program but in the end, the Directors of EARS would have never imagined the elephants of EARS would be called upon one day to participate in such a special program. We can’t be more proud to be a part of this effort and look forward to a very long and rewarding relationship with the many we are so indebted to for what they did and continue to do for our county.  

In the summer of 2011, special friend of EARS and scuba diving instructor/author of “Diving with Disabilities”, Frank Degnan asked EARS director Charlie Sammut to join him on a day of scuba diving in Monterey Bay. He needed someone who could video tape, above and below sea-level, a program called “Our Hero’s Dreams” ~ a sort of “Make-A-Wish” program for wounded veterans that hoped to one day achieve an activity their disability might otherwise prevent them from achieving. On this day, the program’s founder, Justin Bond, brought Coast Gaurd veteran, Dave Riley, to fulfill his dream to one day scuba dive again. Dave lost both his arms and legs from a life threatening virus he he came in contact with while rescue jumping/swimming for the Coast Guard. Justin lost his leg in a fire fight in Iraq; both are decorated and recognized American heroes.

After a very successful day of diving and filming, all came to Vision Quest Ranch before dinner to see the facility and visit with the animals. It was here, an idea came to the minds of all. 

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Dave Riley (Rt) and Justin Bond (lft) redefine “inspiration to any and all they meet!

Several days later, Dave Riley wrote Charlie and Justin an email and in that email he said, “ for a couple hours while interacting with the animals, I actually forgot completely about my disability...” With that, the idea became a goal, a goal that we are moving towards full speed and seeing better results than we ever imagined.

If the animals could make Dave feel as he did, how might they make others feel with similar disabilities? How could those suffering greatly from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome benefit from such interaction? How could the animals help bring these people to a special place where they could receive the counseling an therapy they need to help them better cope with their disabilities and stress? In December of 2011, After much planning and preparing (and allot of dreaming) the first group of veterans were invited to Vision Quest Ranch to participate in a pilot program.

The plan was for five veterans and their family to come to the ranch for one week where they would receive professional one on one counseling from professional therapists, each other (which proved to be incredibly valuable) and most of all, from the animals. One day was allotted for all to enjoy all that Monterey County had to offer. In the end, ALL vowed to promote the program. ALL had emotional memories of the week with results they felt were life altering. They all even asked to be a part of the programs foundation. In the end, it seemed to work leading Justin, Charlie and the others who donated their time, expertise and funding that week to agree to move forward and start planning the next one ~ and the next one ~ and ... 

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All accommodations were provided by Vision Quest Ranch, Safari B&B.

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The animal part was fairly simple. Other than having to fabricate a custom saddle with the help of EARS Donors, Mike and Maureen Eremeyefff, to make the elephant interaction more accessible to some, it was just a matter of letting animals work their magic ~ as they always, do only this time, it just seemed to mean more to those they worked it on.

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It was done with as little supervision as possible allowing the elephants to go about their day and simply share that day with their visitor.

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All seemed to feel that magic with the elephants, a special place, a safe place, a place as far removed as anywhere they could imagine which in turn made them forget the other places they had been.

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Of course, the other animals at Wild Things participated in the program also, each having something unique and unusual to teach all while learning about the humans they met for the first time also. Many of these animals had their own tragic story to tell, especially the elephants, that only the vets could relate to. Everyone found their magic with different animal species and all walked away feeling better for having done so.

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This day was of course complimented by the incredible sights and sounds of Monterey County’s Cannery Row and more.

 Future activities on this day will include scuba diving, sky diving, fishing, sailing, and much more as well as the many incredible sights the Monterey Bay and surrounding cities has to offer.

The last day of our program was made possible by John Whitacre of Monterey Bay Veterans Inc who took the group on a whale watching excursion in Monterey Bay and the Monterey Bay Aquarium who donated a very special “behind the scenes” tour. Both expressed a wish to remain a part of the program in the future..

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(Left to Right) Pete Sutherland on “Buffy”, “Butch”, EARS Director Charlie Sammut, EARS Director and Founder of “Our Heros’ Dreams Justin Bond, “Kristy”, Dave Riley, and Dan Fisher. Pete, Justin, Dave and Dan are all veterans and pioneers of “Our Heros’ Dreams ~ A Healing Safari”.

What’s Next? Another group. And by taking the helpful suggestions and recommendations of those who came before them, we’ll continue to fine tune the program to make this program as rewarding and healing as possible to these American Heroes.

Is it the uniqueness of the animals and/or the activity that’s bringing them to this table? Is it the magic of the animals that’s affecting them? Is it science, physical, mental, magic,,,??? It really doesn’t seem to matter. What does is that they are telling us that it is helping them and as long as that continues to happen, we’ll continue to participate. The elephants seem to love it and the staff, volunteers, owners and directors of Vision Quest Ranch, Wild Things and EARS are extremely rewarded by seeing these special people enjoy and benefit from our efforts.

If you’d like to contribute to this very worthwhile program, Please visit www.ourheroesdreams.org where you can make a donation that will be dedicated to this program. We hope you’ll feel as we do; we can never fully repay these brave men and women for their sacrifice that we call our home today but we should never stop trying.

Click here to see additional photos from past Healing Safaris

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A very special thanks to all who donated their time and services to accommodate our first group.

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