Project Sanctuary Brings Together Military Families to Heal and Reconnect

November 10, 2017

9:20 am

For many us, we have no idea what it’s like being a part of a military family, watching a loved one leave for deployment and let alone knowing he/she is protecting our country overseas and facing some of the most dangerous threats.

For soldiers returning home, dealing with the post deployment effects is a real challenge and impacts their mental and physical health. The other hidden struggle is the ability to return to a normal family life.

Fortunately, organizations such as Project Sanctuary is a medium that take our military families from battle-ready to family–ready by providing therapeutic retreats in a healing environment and provide ongoing family support services for two years after each retreat.

Heather Ehle, CEO of Project Sanctuary, founded this non-profit organization because she discovered the lack of support for military families to get away from the outside world and come back together as one unit. She pulled from her background as a Registered Nurse to establish an evidence-based program that encompasses spiritual, physical and emotional healing.

What many don’t realize is that hundreds of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen, along with veterans, have seen combat and witnessed their brothers and sisters shot, injured, killed or have been shot themselves-and these events can lead to PTSD. The condition is so predominant that the National Institutes of Health have deemed PTSD a growing epidemic.

According to “Available data suggest that about 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women go on to develop PTSD, and roughly 30 percent of these individuals develop a chronic form that persists throughout their lifetimes.”

Project Sanctuary serves current and prior-service military families from all branches of the military with 80 percent of participants living with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and/or physical wounds. I talked with Heather about growing Project Sanctuary and more about helping military families.

Military Veterans

Talk about the growth of Project Sanctuary.

The growth of Project Sanctuary has been born directly from need; the needs of our military families that are not being met through traditional channels. In the last ten years we have increased the number of programs to be able to host 30 retreats in 8 states. We’ve served over 1,000 families, but as one of the team members that sees the applications that flow in daily, and the pleas for help, I know we still have a long way to go.

How do these programs help those with PTSD/TBI/Injuries?

Our participants do not “suffer from PTSD,” they live with Post Traumatic Stress. That is the first thing that we teach. There is a phenomenon called Post Traumatic Growth, in which where you learn to accept and embrace the hell you lived through so that you may help others. Project Sanctuary fully embraces this philosophy and we embrace the fact that the whole family needs to heal together.

By addressing the family’s mental, physical and emotional needs, our team can help craft a healing path forward. 90 percent of our families are living with invisible injuries of war, such as Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

What has been most surprising for you in growing this organization?

Any organization that experiences long, sustained growth will obviously experience a few surprises. The most surprising element of our growth has been just how difficult raising money can be and still is. You can have an unbelievably great need, a phenomenal and innovative solution, but that doesn’t equal a plethora of resources and support. But I believe having to earn, and work for every penny, has made us a stronger and scrappier nonprofit.

Learn more about Project Sanctuary at

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.