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Pack healing helps veterans find their way

By Lisa Nicklanovich; courtesy photos

Graphic Angels Among Us

Photo of Drew Robertson, president and executive director of Mattersville Veterans with wolf-dog Autumn.

Drew Robertson, president and executive director of Mattersville Veterans with wolf-dog Autumn. Mattersville integrates the lives of veterans with wolf-dogs through their unique Pack Healing Experience to help veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other issues to reintegrate into civilian life.

Sedalia-based Mattersville Veterans is a community that provides sustainable housing and healing programs for veterans. Through their unique Pack Healing Experience which integrates the lives of veterans with wolf-dogs, Mattersville is making a difference in veterans’ lives not just in Colorado, but across the country.

Drew Robertson, president and executive director of Mattersville, was motivated to build a program for veterans after he lost one of his best friends, former Marine Randy Hansen, to a post-traumatic stress disorder suicide in 2013. “Every day there is a roof over a veteran’s head, it’s a victory. Teaching coping skills to veterans and how they can use their time in a beneficial and constructive way is a series of wins,” Robertson said.

A solar design specialist who studied off-grid solutions, Robertson is passionate and tireless about working with veterans to find permanent housing solutions that are cost-effective and sustainable. While veterans heal and save money toward that goal, Robertson has their back with Mattersville communities in Wisconsin, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas, in addition to properties in Sedalia and Hartsel (currently looking for funding to build) here in Colorado.

Photo of wolves Bane, Drogo and Gamora, three wolf-dogs that came to Mattersville from Louisiana.

Pictured front to back: Bane, Drogo and Gamora, three wolf-dogs that came to Mattersville from Louisiana. The wolf-dogs are part of the Heroes and Hybrids program at Mattersville Veterans, whose mission is to help veterans with sustainable housing and reintegrating into civilian life.

The wolf-dogs joined Mattersville after the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation closed, and a mutually beneficial mental health support program called Heroes and Hybrids was born. “The wolf-dogs are therapists. Whether it’s a once-a-week visit or even once a month, there’s decompression with sitting with the animals. It’s an awesome experience as the animals learn to accept a new visitor, and there’s mutual respect in a safe and comfortable environment. The wolf-dogs show affection to the people looking for healing and the veterans carry that feeling with them for months,” Robertson said.

Robertson added that visits to Mattersville get the dialogue and the healing process started as veterans will often start to open up. “It’s a healing place,” Robertson exclaimed.

A recent veteran who came through treatment at Mattersville was referred by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Rhode Island. The VA was out of ideas of how to help this veteran and reached out to Robertson who they had been following on social media. “He has since been to all our program locations and he’s thriving now. He was struggling to start the day and now he has so much pep in his step. To see him happy and healthy … this is why we do what we do,” Robertson shared.

Visit www.mattersvillevets.org to learn more. To sponsor a wolf-dog, donate or “meet the pack,” click the Heroes and Hybrids link.

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