Non-profit holds veteran outreach on Mt. Charleston

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Supporting our soldiers — that is the goal of a new non-profit called Vet-REACH.

Vet-REACH provides special activities and counseling on Mount Charleston for local military members, just days after coming home. Helping our nation’s heroes is a personal project for the group of three.

“We’ve all suffered from some things that were not addressed,” said Sharon Walling, Co-Founder and President of Vet-REACH.

Walling’s first husband served in the Vietnam War, but took his own life years after coming home. His death is part of a startling statistic for U.S. veterans.

“20 times a day it happens to other people, to young people, 18- to 34-year-olds are the ones that are taking their lives more often now,” Walling said.

That is why Walling — and her friends Rich and Stacey Lopez — started Vet-REACH. It is a non-profit hoping to provide a stress-free program for military members and their families at the Retreat on Charleston Peak, as soon as they return to the United States. It is completely free and will includes a variety of activities, including hiking and even horseback riding.

Rich Lopez served in Iraq until 2006, and he is a Co-Founder and the Secretary/Treasurer for Vet-REACH. He has experienced first-hand the hardships of readjusting to civilian life. He says the most important part of Vet-REACH is the counseling it provides.

“We talk about some of the things that veterans may experience coming home and their families may experience in their coming home, help them to see what those circumstances are, and when to reach out to each other for help and when to reach out for professional help,” Lopez said.

Staff at the Retreat on Charleston Peak say they are thrilled to be involved with Vet-REACH, and they are hoping they can make a difference in the community.

Matt Wright, General Manager of the Retreat on Charleston Peak, said, “Whether they are coming directly from war or directly from a place that has changed them, we hope to be a place that can be a little familiar, a little feeling of home.”

A home — and a family — Walling hopes can make a difference.

“Ultimately, the goal is to preclude and kind of self harm or suicide,” Walling said.

Vet-REACH relies on private donations will also be looking for federal grant money. It hopes to officially start programming by the end of this summer. For more information, click here: https://www.vet-reach.org/

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