Just an hour away from Merritt and 10 minutes away from Ashcroft lies a very unique accommodation for men and women who serve in uniform.
The Honour Ranch is a safe haven for people in many fields to conduct mental health programs. The lodging aims to provide a great environment at no cost for uniformed individuals or groups to conduct programs promoting their mental well being.
“It’s a platform,” said Bob Parkinson, a board member of the Honour House Society. “Honour Ranch basically started when we saw that people coming to the house were not getting support around mental health that they needed. We wanted to create a platform that can get more mental health supports out there.”
Honour House Society is a non-for profit society that dedicates themselves to the aid of people in uniform. There are over 80 volunteers, a board of directors, and a staff executive director that make up the organization.
Honour Ranch is the second property operated by the group, with the first being the Honour House located in New Westminster. The house is a free accommodation for uniformed personnel, both retired and active, and their families while they seek medical treatment.
“The nature of the industry is very tough,” Parkinson said. “All the work the people in uniform are doing whether you are a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, military, or corrections, it’s very tough work. It’s hard to let your guard down and relax so to have a relaxing environment such as the ranch is a big thing because it allows people to let their walls down and decompress.”
The opportunity to operate the ranch fell on their lap, according to Parkinson. A Vancouver developer connected with the President of Honour House letting them know about the availability of land in Ashcroft.
“The developer purchased the ranch on our behalf and we acquired it back in 2019,” said Parkinson.
“We had launched but then there was something called COVID-19 that shut us down,” he jokingly explained. “We couldn’t continue with what we were doing but now we are available to help people and organizations put on programming and do things.”
Honour Ranch opened its doors back in the summer of this year. The ranch features 10 cabins and a family style lodge where groups can meet up to conduct their programs, varying from retreats, resilience training and different forms of therapies.
“It’s been received extremely well,” he described. “We’ve had military groups and people from across Canada go up there and do things like forge therapy, where they were building axes and knives while talking and learning about mental health issues and supports.”
Chris Hennebery is the Chief Warrant Officer for the Royal Westminster Regiment. He manages ‘Veterans Artist Collective,’ a group which provides art outreach to veterans and serving soldiers.
Hennebery was able to utilize the Honour Ranch on two separate occasions; a plein air painting weekend he hosted back in June and a forge therapy weekend this past September.
“We would not have been able to run these programs without Honour Ranch,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this anywhere else because we’d have to pay for the lodging.”
Both weekends saw nine veterans and soldiers get involved with the art making sessions as a form of creative outlet. Honour Ranch acted as a scenic backdrop that encouraged the participants’ creativity.
“It’s very unique facility, really nicely set up, very professional volunteers who manage it, it’s overall an amazing place,” he described. “All the veterans and the soldiers that come up there are just absolutely blown away by the facility.”
Parkinson said that the ranch guests they’ve had so far are from all over B.C., from Ashcroft to the Victoria and the Kootenays. Honour Ranch also gets visitors outside of the province such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario.
“The Ashcroft area is beautiful, and the ranch setting is beautiful so everyone loves it.” “Many people who come up there say that the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s one of those places where you see a picture of it and it looks nice but you get up there and it’s actually way more powerful. It’s a phenomenal place for people to get assistance.”
For more information about the Honour Ranch, please visit www.honourhouse.ca