Less than two weeks after a glass mosaic honouring first responders was unveiled in Ashcroft, Honour Ranch—a place of recovery and renewal for Canadian Armed Forces personnel, first responders, veterans, their families, and more—opened near Ashcroft, with a ceremonial launch on Oct. 5 that attracted more than 300 people, many of them uniformed personnel from across B.C.
The Ranch—located off Highway 97C 12 km southeast of Ashcroft—is operated by the Honour House Society, which established Honour House in New Westminster in 2010. The House has provided more than 10,000 nights of free accommodation for uniformed personnel and their families while they receive medical care in the Lower Mainland. The Ranch, which sits on 120 tranquil and secluded acres, will provide a peaceful space, facilities, and support for individuals to learn healthy strategies to cope with operational stress injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Allan De Genova, president and founder of the Honour House Society, had the vision of creating Honour Ranch as a complementary facility. Several times during his remarks during the opening ceremony, De Genova was overcome with emotion as he spoke of the creation of Honour Ranch and the inspiration behind it. He thanked the many people, levels of government, organizations, and local businesses that assisted in the creation of the Ranch, including an anonymous donor who contributed $180,000-worth of furnishings to equip the main lodge and the 10 cabins on the site.
Speaking with The Journal after the ceremony, De Genova noted how wonderful the local communities have been in supporting the Ranch, and how peaceful and beautiful the area is. “As soon as I make that turn [into Ashcroft] I feel so good; I truly do,” he said. “Your motto [Wellness Awaits You] is perfect. And coming down here to the Ranch is magical.”
He had hoped to have the Ranch up and running at a site near Kamloops a year ago, but for various reasons the location did not work out. Ian Porter, a friend of De Genova’s, knew that the Ashcroft site was the subject of a foreclosure sale, and planned on making an offer, which was successful.
“I told him ‘Your country needs you, Ian,’” said De Genova. “He gave me the keys and said ‘Make it happen.’ Unbelievable. It was meant to happen.”
There were some facilities at the site, but they were in rough shape, and needed a lot of work. De Genova praised the many locals who came and helped get the work done, which included putting up four kilometres of fencing.
“The community as a whole has made Honour Ranch what I always hoped it would be. We’re going to save lots of lives right here, in this town and the surrounding areas. I just know we will, with the support people are going to give.”
He added that the Ranch is available for uniformed personnel in the area who need it.
“We’re here to look after your community, with mental health or whatever it is. It’s your facility. Come anytime. I’ll do my very best to look after your men and women in uniform here, to make them healthy so they can serve back in the community. Sometimes people struggle, and even heroes need a home. This is their home.”
Ashcroft Fire Rescue has extended the boundary of its coverage area to take in the Honour Ranch property, in case their assistance is needed there.
Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy was at the ceremony, and spoke with The Journal before the event.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “What’s amazing about Honour Ranch—just like Honour House, in my community of New Westminster—is how the community has come together: private volunteers, private donors, the whole community saying with one voice that our first responders, our military and uniformed personnel, put their lives on the line every single day to protect us. Now it’s our turn to care for you and protect you.
“And it’s also part of bringing down the walls of silence that surround mental health and addiction issues. It’s about saying these are health issues, period, and we need to provide the support and healing that you need.”
Darcy agreed that the Ranch would complement Honour House.
“Honour House is the heart of New Westminster. The community came together to support it, and Honour Ranch is realizing the same dream. But whereas Honour House is about people who are dealing with medical treatment, this is about recognizing that people have other health care needs, and that mental health issues are just as important as physical health issues, and that we need to care for them as well.
“When you drive down this road [to the Ranch] you get a feeling of healing, of calmness, and of hope. I’m just really blown away by it, and by the enormous human effort it took to bring this together. I can’t say enough.
“I’ve been wandering around, snapping pictures, because it’s just a place of serenity and healing. It’s what they need and what they deserve.”
The Ranch hopes to be fully operational in early 2020, with guests staying in the 10 cabins already at the site (another 10 cabins are planned). Mental health organizations, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals will be invited to help set up and run the programs needed to provide support for those suffering from PTSD and other occupational stress injuries, as well as their families.
People are invited to help Honour Ranch by becoming a member of the Honour House Society, by giving cash or in-kind donations, or by giving donations of service or time. For more information, go to www.honourhouse.ca, or contact Craig Longstaff, the general manager, at email@example.com.