Governor General Julie Payette, centre, with Paul and Terry Nichols of The Forge. The local pair received Meritorious Service Medals earlier this year in Ottawa for their work supporting veterans. Contributed photo

Fundraising event scheduled for local PTSD therapy programs

Helping Pen-Y-Bryn Farm’s The Forge programs heal the veteran community

Eighteen per cent of all Veterans Affairs Canada benefits received by Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have been for a mental health condition, with 73 per cent of those receiving it specifically for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Stats Canada.

That’s exactly why Cariboo residents Paul and Terry Nichols, the owners and operators of Pen-Y-Bryn Farm in Kersley, have created The Forge, a program dedicated to provide veterans, RCMP officers and first responders suffering from PTSD or Operational Stress Injuries (OSI) with local, residential therapy programs in a rural farm setting.

A fundraising event is being planned for Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 from 4:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, Williams Lake Branch 139 to raise funds for The Forge Program at Pen-Y-Bryn Farm.

David Brideau, a veterans liaison officer for the Royal Canadian Legion in Williams Lake, says the community has already been incredibly encouraging regarding the programs at The Forge.

“There’s absolutely been a great reception,” says Brideau. “Everyone who I’ve approached here in town and explained to them what The Forge is about, they’ve all been incredibly receptive and supportive.”

Furthermore, Brideau states that the response from veterans has also been overwhelmingly positive.

“The general response as far as I’ve come to understand is that it has been a very successful program for veterans to access the tools within themselves to cope with their day-to-day lives,” explains Brideau.

Brideau’s job entails reaching out to find resources to help veterans with the multitude of difficulties. He says that it is often difficult for many veterans to meet with psychologists for their PTSD, due to issues arising from travel.

“As far as British Columbia goes, the thing that I’ve encountered as a veterans liaison and helping out the veterans in our communities, is that the closest place for a veteran who lives in the Cariboo to go to for an OSI clinic would be Victoria or Vancouver,” says Brideau.

“In order for that to happen, they would most likely have to be transferred by airplane to go there. If you have someone who is affected by PTSD, getting into a small airplane in a confined space, it can be very difficult. The same can be said for being at an incredibly busy airport, like in Vancouver. There are a lot of possible triggers, even before they would be able to see a psychologist.”

That’s exactly why Brideau believes a facility like The Forge — located just outside of Quesnel — is so important for local veterans.

“It’s very important to me and to the veterans in our province, and the country, to understand that there are programs like The Forge,” says Brideau. “They are more localized, more centralized, and they are able to help and support veterans with their programs.”

The Forge was created by Canadian Army Veteran Paul Nichols, and it offers a variety of therapeutic activities, including group and individual therapy sessions, massage, body work, yoga and equine therapy.

One of the key elements of the programs highlighted by The Forge is the Equine Assisted Mindfulness Therapy, a therapeutic method where individuals are paired with an equine partner during their stay to enhance self-awareness and improve relationship skills.

Ultimately, for Brideau, putting on a fundraiser for the The Forge is about building awareness to the program that has been so helpful to so many veterans.

“What I’m really trying to do with this fundraiser is to make sure the public understands that it is for all veterans, first responders and RCMP suffering from PTSD,” says Brideau. “It’s a program that is available for anyone suffering, and it’s something that could truly help them out.

“I want to help Paul Nichols get to that next stage for his program, so that fundraising wont be as necessary, and that the program is recognized and funded by Veterans Affairs.”

Two hundred tickets have been printed for the fundraiser, and Brideau is hoping for a great turnout. Local favourites One in the Chamber will be performing, as well as featured guest speakers and comedians from Prince George.

A dinner, door prizes, 50/50 draw and silent auction will also be featured at the fundraiser. Tickets are available at The Man Cave barbershop in Williams Lake, as well as at the Williams Lake Royal Canadian Legion through Brideau.

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