Tag Archives: Veterans

Service Dogs are Veterans’ Best Friend

IMG_3718This blog post comes Marjorie who is the wife of a veteran, Tom, who participates in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s veteran’s mental health program as well as the service dog program.  Marjorie is a staff member and she and Tom are the amazing parents of two daughters. Their young girls were both adopted and born with disabilities. They are an absolutely amazing family.

Norman and Tom 1“Norman is one of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s most recent service dog pairings. He is a labrador retriever and was born on Christmas day in 2016. It wasn’t until he joined our family in February 2017 that we realized what a gift he would be to all of us.  As the wife I was ever hopeful that he would be able to help my veteran husband with managing his post traumatic stress disorder.  In June 2017, Norman became an integral part of our family when my husband, Tom,  got sick.  We picked up Norman from additional service dog training as soon as Tom got out of the hospital. Norman comforted Tom and their bond grew even more.  As the training continued, Norman became more helpful even as a puppy in training.  When Harvey hit there were many helicopters flying overhead which triggered severe PTSD and anxiety, Norman was alerting Tom as his anxiety increased.  He helped Tom manage his PTSD and helped me to be more aware of when Tom was having a hard time even in dire circumstances.  For that I am forever grateful. I do not know what the outcome would have been during this extremely stressful time without Norman.

Norman Reichard puppyWe have also had an unexpected result of having Norman in our family.  Our 5 year old daughter with special needs and also a client of Easter Seals has a tendency to “wander off”.  Norman, as apparently his secondary job, will alert us immediately if she goes too far.   He never barks unless she has gone beyond a boundary that he seems to know instinctively.

Norman and Tom 2In November, Norman became a certified service dog having completed all his training.  He and Tom are a true team now.  You will not see Tom without Norman.   I will forever be grateful for Easter Seals Greater Houston giving my husband more freedom from his PTSD symptoms and for his help with our daughter as well.”

Marjorie, Wife of Veteran in Veteran’s Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston


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“Ideas Worth Spreading” …Corporations & Communities Supporting Veterans

If you’ve watched one of the viral TED talk videos on YouTube, you know their tag line is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” At Easter Seals of Greater Houston, we also think we have ideas worth spreading and ours are focused on collaboration. Being the recipient of a 2016 Texas Veteran + Family Alliance (TV + FA) grant, our goal is to improve the quality of life for Texas Veterans and their families. By working hand in hand with proven Veteran Service Organizations, we are able to have an exponential impact on the community.

We decided to have two large Convenings that would allow us to improve the communication and collaboration of mental health and supportive service in the greater Houston area. Our first convening included Veteran Service Organizations, Mental Health professionals, Veterans and Corporate Partners. This diverse group was chosen so we could demonstrate to all the groups how each one was a vital part of the solution. The event featured an amazing singer for the anthem, Game Show style vignettes to introduce language and culture, break-out sessions that included using technology and apps, features for our partners, nationally recognized speaker COL (ret) David Sutherland of The Dixon Center and a catered lunch.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and there have only been two looming questions for Easter Seals of Greater Houston: When is the next one and can we make the event longer? It seems we have found some great ideas worth sharing and we are truly changing the way that everyone views mental health and veterans services. Our next Convening will be June 13th at Combined Arms.  We invite all greater Houston corporations and businesses interested in supporting veterans to join us at the Convening and learn how hiring Veterans could be amazing for your business!  Please contact Tim Stroud at TStroud@eastersealshouston.org or 713-838-9050 for more information.

Tim Stroud, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veteran Initiative Coordinator

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Make Our Veterans Program Part of Your Unit

Usually I write about a person who was helped by the services I provide through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program. This time I’m going to do that with a twist, so let me tell you the story. Years ago I met a Marine and after this initial meeting our paths diverged for a long time. About a year ago, our paths crossed again at a Marine Corps birthday celebration in Houston and I learned he was a County Veterans Service Officer. After catching up we discovered that we both worked in the Veteran community to reduce the stigma around mental health, providing services to Veterans and their family members. Though our services are different, they both aim to end the suffering in silence of so many Veterans. Over this year, we have discussed all these things and one thing was clear-we have the same mission. A partnership was born that extends to the many Veterans we meet each week.

You might think this is just a story about two people in the community working together to help Veterans, but it isn’t. Yes, we benefit from the collaboration because of the confidence and trust that is shared between us. I know he will work hard and go the extra mile to help those I refer to him. He knows this of me too. Yet, the most important part of our meeting is how our complimentary services have benefited those that have served and their families. He most often refers individuals who have suffered in silence for years due to experiences from their service. Most often it is combat related. veteran-blogHe tells them how things can get better and how they can feel better. He offers hope from someone who has been there. He helps connect them to the services they need. And they get better. When they come to our Veterans Program I give them information about what they are dealing with, the sense of isolation reduces, they feel the support, more things seem possible, and more gets done. I tell them, “You didn’t get here by yourself, so build a unit that will help you get out of this.” Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program can be part of that unit. A County Veterans Service Officer is part of my unit. And we press forward . . . offering hope and services to those who want them and who no longer want to suffer alone.

Dr. Cristy Gamez-Galka, Mental Health Lead for Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer a variety of services that Veterans and their families can benefit from including Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Fort Bend Veterans Companion Dog Program, Bank On Montgomery County as well as the collaborative efforts of the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance.

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These Cub Scouts Are Crazy For Candy & The Veteran Program!

Nov 2015 Veteran Project Pack 8 pic

Cub Scouts in Pack 8, sponsored by St. John’s Presbyterian, had their hands in the candy the day after Halloween – all in an effort to help Easter Seals’ new Veterans Program!  Five hundred Veterans will be receiving brochures about Easter Seals’ new Veterans Program the week of Veterans Day, and the Scouts wrapped and tied the brochures to candy bars.  Easter Seals’ new Veterans Program includes case management services and support groups for Veterans and their families, as well as Recreation Therapy, assistance with technology, and a companion dog training program.  The Scouts were a huge help to Easter Seals, and the candy will certainly make the Veterans smile.  Great job, Pack 8!

Please visit Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s website here for more information on the Veterans Program.

By Christine Ellery, Camps and Case Management Program Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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What Will Your Biggest Challenge Be?

Have you ever been so close to others that you would do anything for them? I mean really anything – like follow their guidance no matter what, walk with them into danger, risk injury or death to achieve something. You may have thought of your family. Whomever you thought of, consider yourself fortunate because this is the same commitment and loyalty the men and women of our military demonstrate in their service. For the family members of active duty, reserve, and prior military service members, theirs is the same dedication – sending their loved one off to danger and potential injury, knowing they’ll miss the big things like births and first days of school, and the little things like dinner around the table and watching TV together. Reunions with their service member are joyful – yet also filled with other challenges such as fitting back in, re-establishing the routine, and re-connecting. Service members come back knowing there are some things their closest family members will never understand.

This may seem like an uphill challenge, but you are not alone. The Easter Seals Veterans Program is here to help. Easter Seals mission is to offer life-changing solutions to people with disabilities and their families and to Veterans with or without disabilities so they can live, learn, work, and play in their community. What does this mean to you? Together, Easter Seals Greater Houston and Easter Seals Dixon Center are making this a reality for Veterans transitioning back into civilian life. The Easter Seals Veterans Program aims to help active duty, reservists, Veterans and their family members connect to the resources they need. If you are interested in starting a group to share information or for support, I can also help you.

My name is Cristy Gamez-Galka and I am the coordinator of the Easter Seals Veterans Program. I am a licensed psychologist, I am eager to share and learn about resources, and start new groups throughout the area. You can reach me to discuss your needs at cgamez-galka@eastersealshouston.org or at 713-838-9050 ext. 371.

Cristy Gamez-Galka, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

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Inspired to Give

For the holiday season, we wanted to highlight some extraordinary stories about people inspired to give.  We hope these gifts of hope and generosity move you as much as they moved us…

I  was so excited that Elise, the CEO of ESGH, extended the invitation to me to blog here.  Many charities have a difficult time figuring out how to work together because they are concerned that combining efforts may drive potential supporters to another cause.  Fortunately that is not the case with Easter Seals of Houston or Boot Campaign!

I am Heather Sholl, a wife, a mother, a business owner and as it turns out, an accidental Co-Founder of a 501(c)3 charity known as Boot Campaign.   I say accidental, because my girlfriends and I, the other co-founders, never intended to have a nationally recognized charity that challenged us to make room on our proverbial plates for 1.4 million men and women we had never met.

My dear friend and now business partner, Sherri Reuland, read Lone Survivor by retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and was moved to share it with as many of her friends as she could.  I was one of those friends, as were Ginger Giles, Leigh Ann Ranslem, and Mariae Bui, now the Co-Founders of Boot Campaign .  After reading the book we were all enlightened to the sacrifices that the men, women and families of our military make on our behalf, every day when they go to work.  We were inspired to find a way to show the gratitude that we felt and decided to wear combat boots to a military benefit concert in Tyler, Texas.  Since Mariae just happens to be a wildly talented photographer, we asked her to document our experience at the concert.  We wore our own combat boots from the local army supply store and asked the artists who were performing to wear the extra pairs we brought.  We are no strangers to organizing a ruckus, so we asked anyone and everyone at the concert who would participate, to take a break from the fun to ‘”put themselves in the shoes of the military” and let us capture it with the camera.   We giggled together as high-falutin’ East Texas donors with rhinestone studded cowboy boots and band members with Mohawks agreed to don our combat boots for mini photo shoots.

After the giggles, the stories and the hangovers had long passed, we received phone calls from a few impressive people.  The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and the music management company for Joe Nichols, had heard about our photos (and our enthusiastic antics) and were interested in participating in “that boot thing”.  We had no idea where we were headed, but we knew we were on to something! Before we could form a plan we had the support of a few people we never thought we’d meet much less that we’d be wrangling dirty socks and used boots for!

All silliness aside, there is no better time for me to appreciate the effort I put in to making a little extra space on my plate to give back to something bigger than myself.   With Veteran’s Day in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am for everything I do not have to do, yet the opportunity to have done so much.  No matter what you have a passion for, what you are moved by or what you wish you could change, don’t be afraid to make a little extra room on your plate this year.  –And I don’t mean for turkey!  You’ll be amazed how far a thank you can go.

Heather Sholl, Co-Founder, Boot Campaign

Nationally, Easter Seals is the largest non-governmental provider of services to veterans.  To learn more about this work, connect to Dixon Center here.  If you are inspired to help, click here to learn more or to donate.

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