An ambitious new program known as Healing the Wounds is underway to build up and mentor the children of fallen military service members and law enforcement officers, combining the Alaskan wilderness with career and leadership training to last a lifetime, according to its founder.
The year-long program will be geared towards children aged 12-17.
Healing the Wounds President Jeffrey Epstein spent years leading wilderness experiences for families and groups in Alaska and strongly believes the changes he saw in those clients could also do a world of good for young people trying to chart a path forward following the loss of a parent in service to the nation or their community.
“I’d like to roll this out for the children of out nation’s fallen heroes – and that includes both law enforcement and the military – and provide them with the same opportunities, but actually help mentor them with unprecedented opportunities to blossom and lead productive lives,” said Epstein.
“We really want to have an impact. We want to help create the next generation of responsible young adults,” he added. However, he notes that the program will require the total focus of the young people. As a result, they will have no access to cell phones or other gadgets while in Alaska. Communications back home will be for emergencies only.
Epstein says in a world flooded with negativity, he wants Healing the Wounds to focus young people on noble pursuits.
“It’s a solutions-based initiative. We created the organization to focus on what’s possible at a time when so much of society is laser-focused on what’s wrong. We want to build character, self-confidence, and leadership skills,” said Epstein.
And what does that look like?
“This is a 12-month program. We’re going to continue to mentor them through webinars and tutorials and regional gatherings but also we’re going to expose them to a dozen or so potential career paths, and we’re going to support them with a call-in center year-round as well,” said Epstein.
“One of the things we’re looking at doing is setting some type of program where we can send them out into different industries, not just the exposure up front but the internships as they work through the years that they’re affiliated with us so we can help them prepare, plan and gain experience in those different potential career paths,” said Epstein.
Epstein already has one critical supporter of Healing the Wounds – the U.S. Army.
“I was interviewed early on by a news organization and it caught their eye. They said, ‘You know what? We’re so enthusiastic about what you’re trying to do here. Just let us know when you’re funded and when you’re ready to go. We have thousands of teenagers that would be in a position to take advantage of this,'” said Epstein.
Other prominent military figures are also on board, including retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General Thomas McInerney and retired U.S. Army Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin. Other recent additions to the advisory board include Gold Star mother Karen Vaughn, retired U.S. Army Green Beret Captain Mykel Hawke, and Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle.
But before the program can begin though, Epstein says significant fundraising is needed.
“We’re ready to go. We’re just trying to raise funding and also build membership. We’re trying to develop a national team of people that will come aboard as members. They can be as active as they want to be. They’ll have the potential to advance any ideas they have,” said Epstein, who sets a goal of 90 percent of all donations going directly to Healing the Wounds programs.
And how will Epstein and his colleagues gauge the success of the program in years to come?
“I think the easiest way to measure results is how happy and productive they turn out in the long run,” said Epstein.
More information can be found at healingthewounds.org.