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We are excited to have launched the “SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops.” This new and impactful program for veterans and active military families kicked off on September 27th, 2020 as we welcomed our very special guest (and our SOUL volunteer!) United States Air Force pilot, Lt. Colonel Gina Stramaglio.

The program meets monthly on the last weekend of every month, dubbed “Veterans Weekend at the Ranch.” #soulveterans

The SOUL Veterans program includes the following:

Monthly Saturday visits to Chicagoland’s Jesse Brown VA Hospital by our SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program registered therapy teams (registered therapy dogs and registered miniature therapy horses). Visits will be held on the last Saturday of the month. Until further notice, hospital visits have been postponed due to COVID-19 #soulveteranssaturday

Monthly Sunday visits for veterans to visit SOUL Harbour Ranch. On the last Sunday of every month, Barrington area veterans are be invited to visit with our registered therapy animals from 10:30am-12pm for some “SOUL” time: “Sharing Of Unconditional Love.” We will host guest speakers from the 5 branches of the Armed Forces to share their experiences with our audience. Please email us if you would like to be considered as a guest speaker

Taped Virtual Visits of SOUL Harbour Ranch with Guest Speaker presentation: we will tape a short virtual visit which will include a guest singer(s) singing the national anthem, the presentation by our honored guest speaker, and a meet and greet with the therapy animals of SOUL Harbour Ranch, which will be posted to our website and on SOUL Harbour Ranch social media.

We welcome veterans to be mentored by us, visit with us, and become registered therapy handlers with us, while learning more about the many benefits animal-assisted therapy (smiles, joy, love and laughter = healing).

In preparation for on-site visits to our barn, we have made MANY improvements. The barn allows handicap-accessibility and meets ADA compliance standards with our bathroom. We have a welcoming area with a seating area and tables, both inside and outside. We have a refrigerator and counters for eating lunch inside the barn. Additional foundation work has been done on the driveway and on the side of the barn to allow for handicapped parking. Plus, we have a fire pit outside! Our monthly onsite program is handicapped-accessible, comfortable and convenient, as well as safe.

We love that we already have a relationship with our community and Chicago-area veterans. We visited the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in January 2020 as a preview visit. We checked out the large activity room and photos for marketing opportunities.

The SOUL Veterans Therapy Animal Troops are comprised of 35 registered handlers, additional volunteers in training, and a total of 85 registered therapy teams. We have the most experienced and competent handlers in the Barrington area’s most comprehensive animal therapy program!

Our therapy teams are registered through the pioneer of Animal-Assisted Interventions and the national “gold standard” for animal therapy, Pet Partners. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered with non-profit organization Pet Partners in October, 2019 to help improve quality of life, social engagement and health of Veterans, by increasing access to animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) services throughout the VA health care system. All of the SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops registered handlers will be required to take the online Pet Partners course, “Volunteering with Veterans.” The level of competency of our animal teams, with testing and registration through Pet Partners, is the pinnacle of standards of excellence, and ensure safety, competency and compliance with infection control (always a key issue when visiting hospitals).

Since Barrington has portions of our community in 4 counties, we welcome Cook, Lake, McHenry and Kane County Active Duty, Reserve, Guard, Veterans and their military families for visits. PLEASE SHARE OUR PROGRAM INFORMATION through social media to ensure that more area veterans will be made aware of our program. If you know military personnel, both active and veteran status, please tell them about the SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops!

Through AAA and AAT visits, we hope to lessen the symptoms of those who might suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can follow war trauma. Research has demonstrated that for PTSD, (1) AAT can be dramatically effective in improving PTSD symptoms; (2) there is the potential for benefit from AAT by multiple different animals besides canines for PTSD (miniature horses and donkeys included!); and (3) AAT may have a role in preventing suicide in patients with PTSD.

We know very well the many benefits of animal-assisted therapy, which include people feeling greater happiness, being more communicative, being more engaged, and smiling more than usual. Those are such healing benefits for everyone who shares the unconditional love that radiates from each SOUL to SOUL connection.

This is our hope for our SOUL Veterans Animal Therapy Troops program: to bring smiles, joy, healing, laughter and a lot of SOUL (Sharing of Unconditional Love).

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