In Your Neighborhood

A dream to create a healthy retreat to serve needs of veterans and families

Karen Dalton hopes to complete the purchase of a 46-acre farm this June to serve as the center for her Dare To Dream Ranch activities

Courtesy of Karen Dalton

Karen Dalton, founder of Dare To Dream Ranch, at horse farm in Foster, which her organization plans to develop into a military retreat for servicemen and women, veterans, and their families.

By Karen Dalton
Posted 1/4/16
Under the leadership of Karen Dalton, Dare To Dream Ranch, a new therapeutic center and military retreat for veterans and their families, is being developed on a 46-acre horse ranch in Foster.
What are the most effective treatments now for PTSD and anxiety? What is the dividing line between government services for veterans and private interventions? What is the suicide rate for veterans in Rhode Island? Is there a ready-made network for Dare To Dream Ranch to work with new housing efforts for veterans?
The value of nonprofits to provide services beyond what government – and companies – can and should do is often a misunderstood force within the entrepreneurial society we live in. Growing the economy is often assumed to be a factor of making smart investments in successful companies that can create profits, wealth and jobs through the delivery of products and services, driven by convenience. Left out of that equation are those costs that are often referred to as the externalities, such as pollution, or in the case of veterans and their families, recurring and persistent trauma as a result of their service. We can either pay for the externalities up front, in added costs, or we can pay later, often three and four times more, when the externalities come home to roost.
In addition to making investments in places, neighborhoods and communities, and not just in companies, a healthier economy requires a different kind of vision of an interconnected ecosystem, where wealth and value can be defined by collaborative sharing of information – and not by an imposed artificial scarcity.

FOSTER – I started Dare To Dream Ranch a little over a year ago, focused on helping service members, veterans and their families to heal and overcome emotional challenges, such as post traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, through alternative therapy programs.

I come to this enterprise both as a family member and as a professional: I am the daughter of U.S. Marine Ronald Dalton, and I am trained and certified as a health coach.

For many, the tragic fact that 22 veterans a day are committing suicide in the U.S. is not widely known.

Dare To Dream Ranch’s mission is to raise awareness about this number, to create the resources available to help our returning veterans and their families, and to raise funds to provide these resources for free.

The goal of Dare To Dream Ranch, and my passion, is to provide help for our service members and their families, through a therapeutic program I have helped to create, called RISE. It stands for: “Respect each other, Inspire for greatness, Support the journey, and Empower for success.”

The concept is straightforward: without respect, our program will not be successful; inspire for greatness means that team leaders will talk to clients about their talents and passions, and help them to figure out how they can best build a successful career; support the journey means the program will help veterans determine what support they need to be successful.

The journey
It could be a certificate from military experience to help get a civilian job, a temporary job, or a job shadow to offer experience in a new field of interest.

We can also help them to understand how to use their G.I. Bill and provide assistance with resume writing, or interview skills. Whatever is necessary, Dare To Dream will be there to help our veterans succeed.

“Empower for success” means the veteran in the program must be willing to take the program seriously. Dare To Dream can provide tremendous resources; however, the veteran must be committed to doing the work.

When I first began this work, I focused on creating a program for our homeless and at-risk veterans that would give them 90 days to create healthy habits, by taking them out of their current environment and placing them for 90 days on a beautiful farm with a support team.

Dare To Dream Ranch will be able to offer this service once a bunkhouse is built on our property.

At the same time, there has also been an overwhelming need for services for veterans outside of the homeless and at-risk demographic.

Expanding the program
Dare To Dream Ranch’s board of directors have agreed to expand our program to become a retreat that addresses the needs of all service members, honorably discharged veterans, and their families who are experiencing emotional challenges.

The visions is that the Dare To Dream Ranch will serve as a “military retreat,” offering equine therapy, yoga, horticulture therapy [produce from the garden will go back to feed our homeless and at-risk veterans and their families], nutritional cooking, where participants will learn the food-mood connection [how what you eat can either exacerbate, or reduce the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression], woodworking, fly fishing, recreational therapy, and career counseling.

As more veterans learn about the Dare To Dream Ranch, we believe they will want to use their passions and talents to help their fellow veterans heal.

We plan to offer veterans a softball field in the hay field, a cross-fit course in the woods, martial arts, fitness programs, and arts and music programs.

The goal is to create an environment where our veterans and their families feel safe; a place that is non-judgmental, and provides a community environment for them to succeed as civilians.

Consolidating the dream
While the Dare To Dream programs are currently offered in multiple locations, I am working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase a 46-acre horse farm by June 2016 in order to bring all of our programs together under one roof.

As Dare To Dream Ranch works toward the completion of the farm purchase and building its network, marketing and outreach, the program has also been working weekly with small groups of veterans.

Since April, we have been referring yoga students to our collaborative partner, Shri Studio, in Pawtucket, for weekly sessions on Monday night at 6 p.m. Nutritional cooking classes are currently being held at a local church, with from five to 20 participants each week. In March of 2016, a fly tying/fishing program will begin. And, there are plans to begin a woodworking program later this year.

This past summer, Dare To Dream Ranch helped the Family Assistance Center by coordinating a petting zoo and pony rides, which were extremely well received.

The old adage, “It takes a village,” stands true for our veterans as well. I believe we all need to come together as a community to support our service members, veterans and their families; the government cannot do it all.

Organizing for future dreams
Dare to Dream Ranch became an official 501[c][3] not-for-profit enterprise in February of 2015, working with a full volunteer staff.

The team held a fundraiser at Bryant University in April, working with Bryant’s Management 200 program, to coordinate our first annual Support Our Veterans 5k walk/run.

Since then, we have held numerous fundraising events, including: a cocktail event, a PawSox event, a Paint and Vino event, a clam bake, a motorcycle run, a comedy night, a Crooked Raven run, an Ocean State Jeepsters event, along with several vendor fairs to raise money.

The next fundraising event, a Support Our Veterans Celebrity Bartender Night, will be held on Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at FUSE Bar & Grill in West Warwick.

The town of Foster has approved the Dare To Dream Ranch for a Community Development Block Grant to support low- to median-income veterans and their families, and we are now waiting for the state to finalize this grant process.

The R.I. House Veterans Committee has approved Dare To Dream Ranch for a legislative grant, and we have also received business sponsorships and monthly donations.

For outreach, I have done presentations to veteran service organizations and to the U.S. Air and Army National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programs.

What the costs are
To realize the vision of creating the Dare To Dream Ranch military retreat, we are actively seeking support from businesses and individuals, either through a one-time donation or through a monthly contribution.

You may wonder what your donations cover. Here is a brief breakdown: $15 will cover worm medicine for one horse for three months; $45 pays for hoof care for one horse for one month; $100 pays for hay and grain for one horse for one month; $125 pays for a horse blanket or six months of vaccines; $300 covers two weeks’ room and board for one horse; $600 pays for room and board for one horse for one month; $750 provides for one and half months’ session for a deserving client’s equine assisted psychotherapy session; $750 covers equine therapy insurance for one year, and $850 covers liability insurance for one year.

As already noted, 22 veterans a day are committing suicide. Dare to Dream’s mission is raise awareness of the daily suffering and suicide of the men and women who have served our country. Our group is working hard to build the resources necessary to offer help to our returning veterans and their families and allow them to rebuild their lives.

Karen Dalton, the founder and president of Dare To Dream Ranch, is a certified health coach. She serves as executive director of the R.I. Academy of Family Physicians. She is a long-time horse enthusiast.

For more information about the program, to attend an event, or to volunteer, visit www.daretodreamranch.org

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