The range of wellness programming to help military and first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) continues to expand at the Wayfinders Wellness Retreat.
Located on the WineGlass Ranch just southwest of town, Wayfinders has all but completed the renovations to its adopted home in a 100-year-old ranch house.
Programs like equine therapy, yoga, and drum circle are well established, many more have been added, and the door is open to explore other ideas.
"There are a lot of options on the table for people to choose their own path to wellness," says Wayfinders co-founder Paul Wagman. "It may be music, it may be beekeeping, it may be equine therapy or connecting with spirits through doing work with some of our Indigenous leaders."
He says they get remarkable interest in all of their programs when they're announced. Yoga, for example, currently has a waiting list.
A Healing Hives program was launched about two months ago with the assistance of the Calgary & District Beekeepers Association. They're working with a supplier to provide bee boxes at cost.
The program is being facilitated by John Maffei, a retired responder.
"It's been his healing story to work with bees," explains Wagman.
The relationships and partnerships established for the program have been fantastic, he says. Some of the swarms and bee boxes have been generously donated.
"We have one great story of a woman who donated her entire bee hives to us. Her dad was in the Second World War and had suffered from PTSD. She was thrilled to be donating it to us."
"We still have a five-stack wooden box and a form to pick up. We're getting in a pretty healthy position that we could pull a couple of hundred pounds of honey from them this year."
"If we winterize well, we could have an effective complete program next year from start to finish. This is the type of program that we could work with our partners to get accredited."
Wayfinders may participate in the Cochrane Farmers' Market next summer to sell some of their products, ranging from honey to art to forging.
"We've got a fantastic amount of products that are coming as a result of recovering wellness," he says.
Still, it's the journey that is at the heart of everything Wayfinders offers.
"It's very mindful. All of our workshops and programs are focused around wellness and mindfulness and so it really is the journey in making these things and being interactive with simple elements, elements of nature, and the experience is part of what we're building on, not just the final product, but it helps us perpetuate the programs by self-funding them and drawing interest."
"We're getting into a good position to be able to not only promote our programs but to be able to have measurable impact."
Wayfinders has podcasts available online that discuss mental health, resiliency, and navigating the path to our best destiny. Wagman says they hope to resume later his month with one being led by an Emmy-award-winning musician, who will discuss the different ranges of tones, and the impact of analog as opposed to digital sound.
They're adding more books to their resource library to help people explore a path to wellness that suits them best.
"We could definitely look at other things, and the onus is on us to do the research as peers who have navigated mental health wellness to say, we've experienced that, we've had a good experience with that, and to let our peers know that there are options outs there because ultimately with mental wellness, whether you're a responder, military or a member of the general public, when you get hit with mental illness, you don't know what to do, and you don't know how to find the resources because you are injured."
The ranch house and its grounds continue to evolve. Wayfinders president Chris Reader says there remains only a few touch-ups and a podcast/media room to complete.
In the front room is both an upright and electric piano, and they are hoping to secure sponsors to purchase guitars for their music workshops.
Reader says it would be ideal to have guitars available for those playing for the first time to help them determine if it's something they wish to pursue.
A condition of using the ranch house is to maintain its original rustic Western appearance. That's being adhered to in everything from the colour of paint to the furniture selection.
Reader was on the furniture selection committee that went room-by-room to determine the furnishings.
"I was the only man on the team, and so I kinda felt out of place," he chuckles. "They'd sit there and go, what do you think, and I'd go, aah. No, we mean as a vet, what do you think? I said, oh, that's why I'm here."
Also in the works are a community garden, deck, and a separate yoga platform near Jumpingpound Creek.