Tag Archives: Veteran Services

Gogo Gadget Service Dog

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s client Celeste who has received and is training her service dog through our Veterans Service Dog Program with the expertise of our Texas Veterans + Family Alliance partner My Service Dog, Inc.

“I want to start by saying thank you so much for all the work that Easter Seals Greater Houston’s and My Service Dog does for Veterans.

I knew of My Service Dog’s program but never really thought it was something that would be for me. I was still adjusting to everything that had changed for me in the last year due to my injury. A friend and co-worker, Kim Gunter, that works with My Service Dog, just happened to be at work on a day when I was having a really tough day. She sat down with me and talked to me about the possibilities of a service dog for me and gave me the contact info. I honestly did not think much more about it until she gave me two names and phone numbers and asked me to just call. So, I did.

I first called Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Program. Talking to Dr. Jennifer Wright was wonderful, she was so kind and compassionate as she explained the various programs available through Easter Seals Greater Houston. She even assured me at the end of our conversation that while I was feeling like I would never be the same again, to remember to be kind to myself. It was a great conversation. I then reached out to Allie Keaton with My Service Dog and talked about what I was hoping to gain from the program. She talked me through what to expect, the work that was involved, and assured me that while it sounded overwhelming that she would be there every step of the way. And she has been.

After I was approved for the program, it still did not really seem real. I was receiving great information weekly and starting to see all the cute puppies in training in the Veteran’s Train Your Own Service Dog class. I thought I was getting a puppy out of an earlier litter but none of them tested out to be a service dog. I was stressed and disappointed at the time but once they showed me the testing video where my Gogo was selected, it all made perfect sense. And now that I have Gogo, I know that she was meant to be mine.

Gogo is the youngest puppy of the class. She has been a blessing and a handful. I’m not saying that she is not a lot of work because she is! But she is a joy and has helped me already on days when I am not feeling my best. Allie has been amazing through this whole process. She checks in on us regularly, we train in person, and have a weekly online group class. I know just 3 weeks into having my Gogo that I would not be able to do this without Allie’s support. Gogo has been to restaurants, stores, two of my offices including a spa and everywhere that she goes she turns heads, and everyone falls in love. She was welcomed at my main office with a baby shower! My co-workers struggle to let her train and not baby her, but we are all learning together so we can make sure she is the best at her job. 

We still have a lot of training ahead of us, but every week Gogo makes great progress, and we are working hard at everything we have learned together. I never knew how much I needed the support and love from my Gogo in training and from My Service Dog and Easter Seals Greater Houston. Thank you does not seem like enough!”

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s broad range of Veterans, Service Members, and Military-Connected Family Programs!

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Feeling Free Through Prolonged Exposure

Easter Seals Greater Houston has a branch of programs serving Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families. Our mission is to assist military-connected families in building the lives they want during and after the military to meet their needs around reintegration, stability, wellness, and growth. Our goal is to provide an easy point of entry for Service Members, Veterans, and Military-Connected families to a range of behavioral health services.

Our team of clinicians serving Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families uses many evidenced-based treatment modalities.  Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy teaches individuals to approach their trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations.  The outcome is learning the trauma-related memories are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided.  In other words, learning to confront the trauma instead of avoiding the trauma. 

Prolonged Exposure is difficult because the immediate response to those difficult memories and feelings is to avoid.  It is our natural default to protect ourselves from the danger.  However, the trauma is never processed, and those symptoms continue to keep the avoidance of places, people, situations, feelings, etc.  It keeps a hold on our lives.  In PE, we confront and explore the trauma in detail.

One success story of PE is of a client being able to take his son to Galveston.  He had always wanted to, but a previous trauma caused a fear of driving, and that prevented the trip from ever happening.  After doing PE with our clinician, the client made the trip and enjoyed every minute of it. 

Another success story of PE is a client being able to relate to a friend who was experiencing hardship due to abuse.  He was able to tell his story and the changes in his life he made.  His friend was grateful and decided to seek his own counseling.  Speaking about his trauma was a fear he had, and he had never spoken about the trauma prior to PE.

Lastly, after doing PE, a client described herself as feeling “free” for the first time in ten years.  Through PE, she started to recognize that she had to address the trauma and her discomfort with it in order to move forward with her life.  She said, “For the first time, I can see my life without my trauma being the highlight of it.”

Special thanks to STRONG STAR (South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience) for providing Easter Seals Greater Houston’s clinicians with Prolonged Exposure training.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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Running Past the Limits

My name is Jennifer Wright, PsyD and I am so happy to be part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston team. I started as a Harvey Case Manager over three years ago and will surely retire at ESGH! I now have the honor of working with clients through the Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families Programs.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with West Nile Virus Encephalitis at age 40 that I wanted to run. The neurologist told me he wasn’t sure if I would ever roller blade or run again. I didn’t have my impulse control back yet…I told him, “Forget it! You don’t know who you are talking to. I am going to roller blade and run some day! Ridiculous!” I stormed out of the doctor’s office, wanting to prove him wrong. In that second, I made the decision to dedicate my daily life to helping people find hope.

Being sick kept me from being able to sit up and caused me to fall over in the shower. Though I had never been a runner before, these new obstacles made me want to run more than ever. I also began working at Easter Seals Greater Houston, loving that the organization brought individuals hope from every interaction. The agency exemplifies this in every interaction with clients, from our initial conversation at intake to follow through several months later.

I was inspired to run the Woodlands Marathon because there are families who no longer have loved ones that can run (death, injury, suicide etc…) or there are families whose kids need 24 hour care. At mile 18 and 22, I was so nauseous from the pain. I felt the tears down on my face- I kept telling myself…”your veterans and families with disabilities push through difficult moments every single day. They embrace this because their struggle never goes away. You breathe through it, in the same way they do. They can do it…you can do it- just like them!” I made it to the finish line thanks to the families who share their stories with me at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Watch the incredible Jennifer Wright finish her race here! Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s programs that serve veterans, service members, children and adults with disabilities and their families.

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Santa and Veterans Team Deliver for Christmas

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Wright and Tim Stroud from Easter Seals Greater Houston Veteran, Service Member, Military-Connected Family Program as well as a host of donors, one Houston Veteran slept in a REAL bed for the holidays. After connecting to the homeless Veteran, Dr. Wright reached out to others for help. As a frontline worker, Dr. Wright’s first action was to ensure the Veteran was in a safe place and had the right mental attitude. In the military, safe is an objective term. He was living in his car with his two dogs and since they are his emotional support animals, he would not go live in a shelter without them. 

This was all the information that Dr. Wright needed to know. She sprang into action and contacted her internal team and then the resources in their network. Since Easter Seals Greater Houston is funded under the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant program from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, they work with over 250 local and regional Veteran Service Organizations. 

Within a few days, the Veteran was living in a home, had food, furniture, clothes, dishes and all the comforts of home. The Veteran now works at a “no kill” animal shelter and is very thankful for the case management and care from our TVFA Network. When the supplies were delivered, the Veteran remarked through teary eyes that this was the nicest bed he has ever slept in. Rest well warrior. 

The Veteran, Tim, smiling with his own room with his two dogs

It is our honor to support a Veteran and to foster just a little bit more of hope. The Veteran, Tim Bergdoll, gave us permission to share his story and indicated that this was the best Christmas ever!

“Being out of my car, sleeping in a warm bed, and watching Pico and Buddy enjoy their warm shower truly was a blessing.” Thank you, for your swift action! Thank you, TVFA for making this a happy-ending!

“On Christmas Eve, I was at peace knowing that this little crew was taken care of” says Tim.

Did you know that Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a wide range of programs and resources for Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families? Learn more.

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