SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops

SOUL VETERANS ANIMAL THERAPY TROOPS

We are excited to announce our new 2020 program, the “SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops.”  This new and impactful veterans’ program will meet monthly on the 4th weekend of every month, dubbed “Veterans Weekend at the Ranch.” Plus, it will include a virtual visit for those who we can’t meet in person! #soulveterans

Due to COVID 19, this program will kick-off on May 25th (Memorial Day) with a virtual visit at 12 noon. VA Hospital visits and on-site SOUL Harbour Ranch visits will kick-off as soon as possible.

The SOUL Veterans program will include the following:

  1. Monthly Saturday visits in 2020 to Chicagoland VA Hospitals by our SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program registered therapy teams (registered therapy dogs and registered miniature therapy horses). START DATE TBD due to COVID 19 #soulveteranssaturday
  2. Monthly Sunday visits in 2020 for veterans to visit SOUL Harbour Ranch. On the 4th Sunday of every month, Barrington area veterans will be invited to visit with our registered therapy animals from 10am-12pm for some “SOUL” time: “Sharing Of Unconditional Love.” START DATE TBD
  3. Monthly Sunday virtual visits from 12-12:30pm via Zoom video conferencing. #soulveteranssunday

Not only will we visit the VA on a monthly basis, but we will invite veterans to be mentored by us, visit with us, and become registered therapy handlers with us! We will invite the veterans to visit with our therapy animals at SOUL Harbour Ranch and learn more about animal-assisted therapy. 

Can’t make it out to the Ranch? No worries! We will host a virtual visit from 12-12:30pm on the 4th Sunday of every month to meet our herd.

We are committed to providing improvements to the barn and the areas surrounding the barn, such as handicap-accessibility and ADA compliance with our bathroom. We will include a welcoming area with a seating area, tables, and a fire pit outside. We will have an area for a refrigerator and counters for eating lunch inside the barn. Additional foundation work needs to be done on the driveway and on the side of the barn to allow for handicapped parking. This monthly onsite program will be handicapped-accessible, comfortable and convenient, as well as safe.

We love that we already have a relationship with our community and Chicago-area veterans. We visited the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in January 2020 as a preview visit. We checked out the large activity room and photos for marketing opportunities. Our registered therapy animal teams teams also participated in the Memorial Day Parade and the Barrington 4th of July parade. 

The SOUL Veterans Therapy Animal Troops are comprised of 27 registered handlers, additional volunteers in training, and a total of 82 registered therapy teams. We have the most experienced and competent handlers in the Barrington area’s most comprehensive animal therapy program!

Our  therapy teams are registered through the pioneer of Animal-Assisted Interventions and the national “gold standard” for animal therapy, Pet Partners.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered with non-profit organization Pet Partners in October, 2019 to help improve quality of life, social engagement and health of Veterans, by increasing access to animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) services throughout the VA health care system. All of the SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops registered handlers will be required to take the online Pet Partners course, “Volunteering with Veterans.” The level of competency of our animal teams, with testing and registration through Pet Partners, is the pinnacle of standards of excellence, and ensure safety, competency and compliance with infection control (always a key issue when visiting hospitals). 

Since Barrington has portions of our community in 4 counties, we welcome Cook, Lake, McHenry and Kane County Active Duty, Reserve, Guard, Veterans and their families for visits. We have reached out to area organizations that help active duty and veterans, and they are willing to share about us. This will ensure that more area veterans will be made aware of our program through social media and website promotion.

Through AAA and AAT visits, we hope to lessen the symptoms of those who might suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can follow war trauma. Research has demonstrated that for PTSD, (1) AAT can be dramatically effective in improving PTSD symptoms; (2) there is the potential for benefit from AAT by multiple different animals besides canines for PTSD (miniature horses and donkeys included!); and (3) AAT may have a role in preventing suicide in patients with PTSD.

Even more sobering are the grim statistics related to veteran suicides. The age- and sex-adjusted rate for the Veteran population increased from 25.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 in 2016 to 27.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 in 2017 (the latest year for which data is available). 

Most importantly, we will mentor and build a “troop” of those who have a love for animals and have served our country.

We know very well the many benefits of animal-assisted therapy, which include people feeling greater happiness, being more communicative, being more engaged, and smiling more than usual. Those are such healing benefits for everyone who shares the unconditional love that radiates from each SOUL to SOUL connection. 

This is our hope for our community veterans: to bring smiles, joy, healing, laughter and a lot of SOUL (Sharing of Unconditional Love).