Veteran Affairs shadow minister Blake Richards got a close-up look at the progress being made by the Wayfinders Wellness Society since his last visit in 2020.

Richards, also Cochrane's representative in Ottawa, said he was incredibly excited about the work they're doing and proud of the progress they've made in providing resources for veterans and first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

He says it's something he has supported since attending its "Alone Together" launch in May 2020. Back then, it was an empty shell of a house on a ranch southwest of Cochrane with a dream to provide help in whatever form necessary.

"It was definitely something you knew was going to be very worthwhile to help our first responders and our veterans," says Richards. "I want to continue to support them in whatever way I can because the work they're doing to help those who are there to serve our country and serve our communities is incredibly important to work. It's great to see what they're doing."

meetingRichards, left, in discussion with Wayfinders officials Stephanie D., chair David Irvine, and Paul Wagman.

Along with his chief of staff Jack Lumley, Blake discussed ways they can help Wayfinders further its mission.

"Their goal is to make sure that they're there for everyone who might need them, and I certainly share that goal to provide this programming to our veterans and to our first responders. They want it to be free programming because they want it to be accessible to everyone who might need it."

That requires funding, whether it be government grants or private donations. Richards says they discussed some avenues to explore

They've asked Richards to advocate on their behalf in Ottawa and he accepted an offer to appear as a guest on one of their podcasts.

"I want to do everything I can to support them to continue to do the good work they do because they're a needed organization, no question."

Wayfinders executive director Paul Wagman says having Richards see how it's all come together over the past few years, even through a pandemic, was important.

"It was really nice to be able to explain to Mr. Richards where we've come over the years and what we've been able to do with, especially with our mental health grant that we got from Minister (Mike) Ellis, and to really highlight the number of responders and veterans and their families that we've been helping, especially the family units that we've been supporting through peers with lived experiences."

Besides their own programming, Wayfinders has been successful in establishing a vast support network.

"When a responder, military or family members are struggling with mental health due to their service, we have the resources to be able to defer to all of our partnering agencies no matter what it is, whether it's housing needs, food needs, financial needs, mental health support, doctors, you name it," explains Wagman.

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