In less than one week, Aftermath volunteers will once again travel to Costa Rica, for our Recce Trip.
This trip is different than the other times we have visited the future site of Camp Aftermath, because this time we will be traveling with participants who suffer from PTSD, to take them through a mock itinerary and visit various sites and local charities where future participants will engage in self-healing as part of Camp Aftermath.
Before this next step, I find myself looking back on how we came to be here.
The idea of Aftermath came to me in 2015 at one of the most challenging times in my life.
I was a relatively new father of a beautiful two-year-old girl, but I was facing a turning point. From the moment of her birth, my daughter always inspired me to be better, as I’m sure most fathers can relate. I made a silent promise to her and to myself that I would set the best example for her by living a life of passion and meaning. I thought this was going to be an easy task, as I had lived a life of great purpose while in the Canadian Forces, and I felt deep connection to what I was doing, especially whenever I was deployed. But what I realized once I was no longer in the military, was that I was actually lost and searching for purpose; for that platform to live a life with meaning and to once again serve others. To show my daughter how life can and should be.
As part of my effort to lead by example, I wrote on her bedroom wall the most inspirational quote I could find about living a life of purpose: “Dream until your dreams come true.” And although they were intended for her, those words ended up inspiring me before my daughter was even old enough to read them, when the idea which led to the creation of the Aftermath Association revealed itself to me.
I shared my idea to create Camp Aftermath with some close friends and before I knew it, we were a group. Then we were incorporated as a non-profit; and filing application forms to gain charity status; and receiving backing from the top mental health experts in Canada, such as Dr. John Whelan, Dr. Marvin Westwood, Dr. Tim Black and Dr. Richard Nahas.
Faster than I dreamed it, the idea of establishing a facility that uses active philanthropy to help PTSD sufferers, had transformed into something so much more beautiful than I had ever imagined.
As more volunteers joined the Aftermath family, they brought with them a rich, diverse set of life experiences and ways of dealing with mental anguish, from both inside and outside the world of service. This incredible group of people have enriched my dreams in a way which continues to surprise and amaze me. From an idea, to a team running social media, a website, crowd-sourcing, graphics, and social committees. We now have financial and treasurer officers, legal advisers, communications experts, a videographer, a board of directors and executive board working together to bring this dream closer to reality.
Throughout this experience, I have learned that dreams – goals – are meant to be achieved, and as soon as they are realized, one moves on to the next goal; to the next dream.
It is not the individual plans or projects we go after, but the journey which transforms us into who we need to be to achieve them. In realizing that it is the journey that has shaped me, I am excited to take this huge step by taking this Recce Trip to Costa Rica, because I know that this achievement is just a goal, like all the other ones before it, and that new ones will be on the horizon in the very near future.
I set out to show my daughter how life should be lived, but in the process, I’ve actually shown myself. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to be surrounded by such amazing volunteers and supporters as we continue on our quest to bring solace to military members and first responders suffering from PTSD. As we strive to utilize giving back as a way to support long-term management of PTSD, to give purpose to service men and women, who, like me, thought they had lost it, and to respond to human need with human care, I look forward to dreaming new dreams for Aftermath, and to seeing them come true too.