‘The help is here’
Rally Point serves as a retreat for those living with PTSD
Down a quiet road in Shelburne County, on a quiet 48 hectares, sits a rather unassuming ranch-style house.
This is Rally Point Retreat in Sable River, a place for first responders dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder to relax, escape, work with their hands, or just get away for quiet time with family — whatever they need to do to get through a rough patch.
Up to 10 people a day may stay here, and two of those are fulltime. That’s because Bob and Johan Grundy own the house.
Rally Point was the brainchild of Bob, who served as a regular and reserve member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was at his first group therapy session in 2014, where a common theme was that those in attendance didn’t feel like they had anywhere they felt safe to go because of their triggers, or noise or crowds.
Bob offered his home for that purpose.
“He came out at lunch and said, ‘ I think I just offered our house to everybody,’” Johan said.
“The house was so big, and the area so beautiful, he just said ‘ come on down,’” she said. “Unofficially, for the first couple of months it was just having people come down and check out and relax.”
By February 2015, they had non-profit status and a board.
Rally Point is open to anyone who has been diagnosed with PTSD and is under care, and in a positive phase of their treatment.
Some people stay for an afternoon, some stay for days or longer.
About 150 people have stayed at the house overnight, but 500 have visited for a day or just talked on the phone.
It was during the first week of group therapy, in a discussion between Bob and Alan Shepherd, a retired RCMP member, that the name and formal idea for Rally Point was born.
“We immediately hit it off,” said Shepherd, who was a staff sergeant when a PTSD diagnosis forced him off the job after 30 years.
Rally Point is trying to get its charitable status. Initially, it was funded with Bob’s pension. Now, there is additional support from donations by different groups and organizations, and in-kind labour for those who can help.
Shepherd said help has really picked up this year, especially after a leaking roof after a storm last winter caused damage to one part of the house where the library was supposed to be set up.
Shepherd is the treasurer of the non- profit society, and hopes charity status will help bring more funding to the retreat. Future plans are to build 10 cabins in the woods around a pond, using a donated bandsaw mill to make lumber from trees felled by storms last year.
Besides helping others, Shepherd said Rally Point has also helped him. He said anyone with PTSD needs a purpose, and his is helping Rally Point.
“For me, working with other veterans, who are of similar mind, is comforting,” he said.
“There’s a sense of purpose, but there’s also a sense of accomplishment,” Shepherd said.
The retreat has a woodworking shop, and also the material to make custom pens. A library and theatre room are open to families of those who attend as well, and there is an exercise room and the vast acreage to walk.
“We’re not a treatment facility, we’re a respite, of which there are none,” Shepherd said. “It’s to come down here, feel welcome and get your bearings. If you want to sit in the library all day and read a book, so be it. If you want to go outside and work with a chainsaw for six hours, go do it.”
Todd Sisk is a former New Brunswick paramedic and current fire chief in Sable River, who also met Bob and Johan at a therapy centre in Halifax County a couple of years ago. He wasn’t living in the area at the time, and after a few failed attempts finally made it to Rally Point.
“I spent a lot of time here at the beginning, helping out because they were helping me out at the same time,” he said. “When I first started coming here, I was just staying home doing nothing — bunkering, I guess — this was a quiet place where I didn’t need to worry about doing anything.”
He became a board member not long after.
“I kind of took it on as my pet project, really,” he said.
He said while military veterans are well-organized and there are many support networks when it comes to living with PTSD. He wants to see more first- responders know about, and make use of, Rally Point.
“I’d really like to see the word get out more to the first responder community,” he said. “I’ve lost friends, I’ve lost former partners who couldn’t get the help they needed. The help is here, but we need the word out that there is a place to go.”
More information is available at www.rallypointretreat.org
Bob and Johan Grundy. Bob used his pension to start Rally Point Retreat in Sable River, a facility for military veterans, first responders and emergency dispatchers living with PTSD.