Canadian man hopes to create sunny local haven for veterans - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Canadian man hopes to create sunny local haven for veterans

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Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2012 7:45 am | Updated: 5:01 pm, Fri Mar 9, 2012.

Brian Wood is a man with a big idea and a plan to help American and Canadian military veterans. But he needs help.

“The whole idea is to give veterans from Canada and the northern United States an inexpensive place to go to get away from the cold for a little while,” he said. “This is a wonderful part of the country, and there are lots of things to do.”

It was with this in mind that Wood incorporated his business, Hero’s Haven, as a 501(c)(3) in October. Wood served more than 34 years in the Canadian military. During his time in the service, he said he recognized a need he is now, as a 61-year-old retiree, trying to meet.

“The more people I spoke to about it, the more I heard it was a great idea,” he said. “After one or two friends back home who shook their heads, I haven’t run into anyone who thought otherwise.”

The project has also been therapeutic for Wood. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome in 2004, he said the Hero’s Haven project has given him an outlet, something to focus on and believe in.

“Somewhere along the line, the things I dealt with got in my head,” he said. “This project has helped me keep my head straight. As long as I keep myself focused, it seems to go OK.”

Still, Wood acknowledged there is a lot of work left to do. Hero’s Haven is incorporated, yes, and Wood has a business plan in place, but there is very little in place beyond that. Wood said he needs people with the right expertise to help him get to the next stage. He wants to begin applying for grants, but he needs someone who knows how to write strong proposals.

“I need people familiar with transportation issues that could come up,” he said. “I need people who can negotiate discounted flights for us. I need people who can work with local sports and entertainment venues to negotiate discounts. I need people who can get us vehicles donated.”

There is also the not-so-small problem of finding a location for the facility.

“I’d like to purchase about 5 acres in Glendale, preferably close to Westgate,” he said. “You know the thing about northerners and Canadians? They love hockey. And it’s a good location. Close to the freeway. And if Glendale or a private owner wants to donate the land, even better.”

Wood said he knows just what he wants from the facility and has identified someone who can draw up the plans for him. He said he hopes to have the facility open in time for the Super Bowl in 2015, though he acknowledges that might be a little optimistic. Still, with a little luck and help from the right people, Wood believes he can make it happen.

“I’ve been told once I begin to receive grants, once I’ve established Hero’s Haven as a legitimate organization, there are plenty of corporations out there that would be willing to donate funding,” he said.

Wood said he hopes to have a small staff of full-time employees, preferably fellow veterans, and he also wants to work with Maricopa Workforce Connections to get homeless or unemployed veterans back on their feet. Once the Glendale location is established, he also wants to open a Hero’s Haven in central Alberta, his home, to serve the same purpose.

“Give veterans down here a chance to get out of the heat in the summer,” he said.

It may all seem a bit pie in the sky, but Wood is confident. The odds, he said, do not deter him.

“Oh, it’s going to happen. There is no doubt in my mind. There are so many veterans who could use something like this, and there’s just nothing like it available. I just need people who have the time and are willing to work to join me. This will lead to something we can all be proud of.”

For information or to get involved, contact Wood at 602-327-6202 or at myheroshaven@gmail.com.

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or jdempsey@yourwestvalley.com.

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