Ro­ck­land ve­te­ran Marc La­pointe says it’s okay to ask for help

Vision (Canada) - - Portrait • Profile - ALEXIA MARSILLO alexia.marsillo@eap.on.ca

Un vé­té­ran de Ro­ck­land, Marc La­pointe, a fon­dé Au­dea­mus, une or­ga­ni­sa­tion à but non lu­cra­tif qui forme et four­nit des chiens d’as­sis­tance aux an­ciens com­bat­tants et aux pre­miers in­ter­ve­nants souf­frant de PTSD. Au­dea­mus est unique en son genre car il four­nit des chiens de ser­vice sans frais, pour la vie du chien ou aus­si long­temps que la per­sonne en ques­tion a be­soin d’aide. Ici, on peut re­con­naître Marc La­pointe avec son chien d’as­sis­tance Sti­cker. “May we dare, may we ven­ture, may we risk. May we be ea­ger for bat­tle.” This is the rough trans­la­tion of the mea­ning of the La­tin word Au­dea­mus.

Au­dea­mus can now al­so be re­fer­red to as a non­pro­fit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides cer­ti­fied ser­vice dogs to those trau­ma­ti­zed in the line of duty – ran­ging from Mild Trau­ma­tic Brain In­ju­ry, Ma­jor De­pres­sion, Dia­betes, Sei­zures and Mo­bi­li­ty and Hea­ring Im­pair­ment. Au­dea­mus is an in­ju­red ve­te­ran-run cha­ri­ty, the pro­gram foun­der being Ve­te­ran Marc La­pointe, who ser­ved in the mi­li­ta­ry for 25 years. Au­dea­mus stays true to the ori­gin of its name – re­min­ding those who did in­deed dare, ven­ture, and risk their lives, that the bat­tle does not end once off the bat­tle­field.

“I’m from a mi­li­ta­ry fa­mi­ly of 14 ge­ne­ra­tions back […] so I guess it’s in my blood,” said Marc La­pointe. “As long as I can re­mem­ber, I had this urge of going in­to the forces, like a cal­ling. I un­ders­tood this cal­ling to be na­tu­ral.” La­pointe ser­ved 25 years in the mi­li­ta­ry, in both the Ca­na­dian and Ame­ri­can Spe­cial Forces. He suf­fe­red his first ser­vi­ce­re­la­ted in­ju­ry on a tour in Bos­nia in 1993, al­though he did not know it at the time. He went on to do three more tours af­ter that: in Bos­nia from 1999 to 2000, and two tours in Af­gha­nis­tan in 2006 and in 2007.

“My last tour in 2007 was where I hit the wall,” ex­plai­ned La­pointe. “Wi­thout kno­wing it, I had ac­cu­mu­la­ted 15 years of trau­ma.” La­pointe ne­ver be­lie­ved in the need for the­ra­py, gro­wing up as a “tough guy,” un­til he rea­li­zed he nee­ded help him­self and that he had no other choice. “I ba­si­cal­ly didn’t know what was going on, from being a full figh­ter ki­cking down doors and grab­bing Ta­li­ban, to six months la­ter being in a fe­tal po­si­tion in my bed crying,” ad­ded La­pointe. “So, what hap­pens from there? I pul­led up my sleeves, be­cause I am a figh­ter, and I went to get help.”

La­pointe star­ted Au­dea­mus ba­re­ly two years ago and co-foun­ded the pro­gram with Ch­ris­to­pher Lohnes, an RCMP of­fi­cer, whom he had met when they both were see­king help through a ser­vice dog or­ga­ni­za­tion. La­pointe vo­lun­tee­red for this pro­gram for three years, even be­co­ming an Ope­ra­tions Of­fi­cer and trai­ning and cer­ti­fying others to be able to train ser­vice dogs. La­pointe and Lohnes even­tual­ly de­ci­ded to pave their own way and the re­sult is Au­dea­mus. Wi­thin the last year and a half, Au­dea­mus has gai­ned ten doc­tors, se­ve­ral re­search pro­fes­sors from dif­ferent uni­ver­si­ties, three lawyers from across the coun­try, a full board of di­rec­tors and exe­cu­tive com­mit­tee com­pri­sed of 35-40 people and about 100-120 people ac­tive on the ground as part of the ser­vice dog teams – all of which are vo­lun­teers. There are al­so about 45 people in the pro­cess of en­te­ring the pro­gram or of re­cei­ving their ser­vice dog and ano­ther 15-20 people wai­ting for a dog to be found for them.

Au­dea­mus is one of a kind as it pro­vides ser­vice dogs to ve­te­rans, first re­spon­ders and war cor­res­pon­dents at no cost for the life of the dog or for as long as the per­son in ques­tion still needs help. For the rest of the pu­blic, mea­ning anyone else out­side of the line of duty that needs a ser­vice dog for PTSD, they will on­ly pay the cost of the dog – all trai­ning and other ser­vice costs are in­cur­red by Au­dea­mus. On top of this, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is al­so in the works of de­ve­lo­ping a pro­gram that would pro­vide ser­vice dogs to the chil­dren of men or wo­men in the line of duty that may be af­fec­ted with PTSD, due to their pa­rents.

“Mi­li­ta­ry people stick to­ge­ther, they help each other and this task that Marc and Ch­ris took on was pret­ty all on their own,” said Ka­ta­lin Poor, the Chair of Au­dea­mus’ Board of Di­rec­tors. “When an out­si­der hears all their plans, they think they are going too fast and will fail, but they are not going to crash and burn be­cause they are com­mit­ted and will keep going.”

On top of trai­ning dogs to be ser­vice dogs, Au­dea­mus al­so has a pro­gram that trains people to be­come ef­fec­tive dog trai­ners. “It’s a big um­brel­la of things that people can learn in or­der to give back to the com­mu­ni­ty and all of this is free,” de­cla­red La­pointe. “We fun­draise in or­der to be able to do this.”

Au­dea­mus is hol­ding its first Fun­drai­sing Gala on Sa­tur­day, No­vem­ber 4 at the Ot­ta­wa Po­lice As­so­cia­tion Hall in Ot­ta­wa, which seats 150 people. Pro­fes­sio­nal co­me­dians and mu­si­cians, in­clu­ding Hé­loïse Yelle, have vo­lun­tee­red their ta­lents for the cause, as well as mem­bers that will share their sto­ries of trau­ma and re­co­ve­ry. The main spon­sors of Au­dea­mus’ Field of Pup­pies Gala are the Bairn Croft Re­si­den­tial Ser­vices (BCRS) and Char­ron Hu­man Res­sources (CHR). The Ca­na­dian Le­ga­cy Pro­ject has al­so part­ne­red up with Au­deau­mus on se­ve­ral oc­ca­sions, in­clu­ding the Le­ga­cy’s Home for Heroes pro­ject, in which Au­dea­mus is hel­ping them find land to get ho­me­less ve­te­rans off the streets. The Gala will al­so in­clude raffles, silent auc­tions and any­thing else that can help them raise mo­ney to conti­nue pro­vi­ding free ser­vices to in­ju­red ve­te­rans.

“When PTSD strikes, you lose eve­ry­thing,” said La­pointe. “You lose your fa­mi­ly, you get a divorce, you lose your friends, your job, your health – both phy­si­cal­ly and men­tal­ly.” In crea­ting Au­dea­mus, he ho­ped to re­duce the stig­ma that sur­rounds men­tal ill­ness, PTSD and ser­vice dogs. “If there is one mes­sage to throw out there, it is to edu­cate your­self, have an open mind and to be res­pect­ful,” men­tio­ned La­pointe. “It’s al­so im­por­tant to be­long to so­me­thing, if you are on your own, you’re not pro­tec­ted.” La­pointe felt a cer­tain res­pon­si­bi­li­ty to­wards his peers in the line of duty, to create so­me­thing that would make eve­ryone feel as if they were a part of so­me­thing big­ger than them­selves, and to re­mind strong and cou­ra­geous ve­te­rans and first re­spon­ders that it is okay to ad­mit de­feat, so­me­times, and ask for help.

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