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Hope, healing and nature

5th Annual Veteran's Appreciation Picnic

Healing Hearts in Hope Veteran's Retreat Center located in Granite Falls, Washington, has been open since 2011, and has held a yearly Veteran's Appreciation Potluck Picnic ever since. Courtesy photo

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Activist Teresa Baird has a saying that is as much a part of her identity as her "Flying Eagle" moniker: "Give your heart to our veterans for they are the heart of this country."

And Baird practices what she preaches.  The wheelchair-bound force of nature commands a group of volunteers with the specific mission of providing a space in nature where veterans can heal through the appreciation of nature, conversation with others who have walked in their combat boots, and through service to others.

Her Healing Hearts in Hope Veteran's Retreat Center is the culmination of 21 years of work, which began after her husband, William L. Baird, a Vietnam vet, took his own life as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.  With a cadre of fellow advocates and veterans who have pitched in to help (and to heal), she turned 17 acres of her land, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Pilchuck, into a retreat for veterans.  

This land includes 12 campsites, the Flying Eagle Field, space for sweat lodges, and two unique features: the William L. Baird cabin and talking circle fire pit.  "My husband believed vet-to-vet talking was healing," she explained; "nobody understands their suffering like they themselves."

The retreat located in Granite Falls, Washington, has been open since 2011, and has held a yearly Veteran's Appreciation Potluck Picnic ever since.  This year's event is set to happen Monday, Aug. 7, from 1 p.m. until approximately 4 p.m.  Baird welcomes all veterans and their families and is explicit in her desire to see active servicemembers and their families as well.  

Some guidelines exist around the appreciation event.  As it is a potluck, attendees are encouraged to bring a favorite main dish, side or dessert to share, and non-alcoholic beverage to drink.  It's worth reiterating: the recreation area is a drug and alcohol-free zone, with the emphasis here being on healing in a natural setting.  Toward the "natural setting" end of things, remember to bring comfortable footwear and other hiking gear for venturing out into the campsites, the river, or Cranberry Creek.  Additionally, there are no trash facilities so be prepared to carry in and then carry out your trash.

Campsites are available on a reservation basis; reservations can be made through the website or through Teresa herself at 360.691.6284.

5th Annual Veteran's Appreciation Potluck Picnic, Monday, Aug. 7, 1-4 p.m., Healing Hearts in Hope Veteran's Retreat Center, 28902 Mountain Loop Highway, Granite Falls, WA, 360.691.6284, healingheartsinhopeveteransretreatcenter.org

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