A new safe-haven for first responders and military veterans will soon be open in Ashcroft, providing critical mental health support and services to the community at large.
Honour Ranch will hold a ceremonial launch for the public on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. as it prepares to launch its services to help first responders and veterans in the area, beginning in the new year.
“We’ll start treatment in early 2020,” said honourary colonel Allan De Genova, who is also the president and founder of Honour House Society. “The main lodge is ready and we’ll be working towards another ten cottages.”
After the launch on Oct. 5, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and various professionals will be visiting the ranch to continue setting up the programs needed to provide support for those suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses.
During the first responders mosaic unveiling ceremony in Ashcroft on Sunday, Sept. 22, De Genova experienced first hand just how impactful Honour Ranch could be when he was approached by a local RCMP member who described how desperately he needs the ranch to open.
“He said ‘I will be there.” I couldn’t believe it,” said De Genova, recalling how emotional the moment was for both he and the man in need of mental health support.
The interaction left Honour House’s founder feeling more inspired than ever to continue his mission to help other veterans and first responders recover and thrive.
Until services and support are offered at Honour Ranch, interested individuals can reach out for help in the interim by contacting De Genova directly or visiting the Honour House website online. He personally knows of many men and women in uniform who will benefit from the mental health services and support provided by Honour Ranch.
De Genova was inspired to start the ranch after the loss of his friend and veteran Joseph Allina, who completed three tours in Afghanistan but passed away from suicide last July. Allina’s partner, a Surrey RCMP member, has suffered in the time since then, explained De Genova. She will be there for the launch on Oct. 5.
“If I would have had honour ranch up and running, I would have saved Joe,” said De Genova. “I feel bad about that and so Joe is truly my inspiration behind getting this ranch up and running. I think about him every day and I’ve been pushing to get here, which is really a miracle thanks to the TNRD.”
De Genova expressed his thanks to Ashcroft’s Mayor and Council and everyone involved for their support in making Honour Ranch a reality.
“I think most people didn’t think this was going to happen,” he said. “I don’t think they expected it to happen so quickly, but I have to make this happen because every day we’re not open is a day we’re not saving lives.”
“Your community is feeling the pain,” he added. De Genova sympathizes with the combined adversities faced by residents of Ashcroft and Cache-Creek in recent years and hopes Honour Ranch can help.
From losing a local fire chief to facing wildfires, floods, and mudslides, both communities have endured significant challenges over the past two years.
De Genova emphasized that the trauma that first responders experience on a daily basis can have significant impacts on their lives and mental health. His hope is that Honour Ranch will be a place for those individuals to feel safe and cared for.
“I can see it and feel it, like all of you, and I think this ranch will really help the greater community and all of British Columbia,” he said. “All of our first responders and military are a family and we need to look after them because they’re there to look after you virtually every day, 24/7, when you need them. They need help, they have nowhere to go, and that’s my job to look after them.”
“One size does not fit all when it comes to mental health,” De Genova added. “But we’ll be able to offer peer groups, counselling, they don’t have to feel like they’re in a clinical situation. I truly believe, from the homework we’ve done, that the setting we’re in, the proximity where we’re located, literally, we’ll save hundreds and hundreds of lives.”
Honour House opened in 2011 in New Westminster, offering free lodging to first responders and armed forces members who require medical treatment and care.
Honour Ranch itself sits on a 120-acre property 12 kilometres south of Ashcroft. Saturday’s ceremony will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. with official remarks beginning at 1:30 p.m. at 31-09 Kirkland Road. The event is open to everyone.
The day’s speakers will include captain Trevor Greene of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, honourable Judy Darcy, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health & Addictions, Robert Parkinson, Health and Wellness Director for Ambulance Paramedics of BC, and De Genova himself.