“ Thank you a million times
over,” one wrote. “I am forever
changed by this experience.”
River, roaming the landscape in all-ter-rain vehicles or horseback riding within
sight of the gorgeous Crazy Mountains.
Lunch might be a picnic, dinner a barbecue, followed by television or billiards.
Volunteers help with the fly-fishing and
other activities requiring skill or training.
Experiences at the ranch range from
comical to heartbreaking and often
include moments of both. “Oops,” a soldier shouted when he lost his
prosthesis during a horseback ride. After a moment,
he and everyone around him
burst out laughing. In
another instance, a 19-year-
old whose leg had been
destroyed by an IED (improvised explosive device) arrived at the ranch acting
tough and aloof; nothing seemed to
bother him. Before bedtime, however, he
pulled Cohen aside and asked if he could
sleep with Cohen’s English Labrador.
Says Cohen, “I had to do everything that
I could to keep from crying.”
In the future, Cohen hopes to con-
tinue to expand his work.
Although he’s yet to have a
double amputee visit the
ranch, he’s already bought
a special saddle designed
for one. The yearly cost
of hosting four groups
of eight servicemen is
about $100,000, an
expense that is borne by
Cohen, the Fisher House
Foundation (a philanthropy
for military families) and the
Howling Wolf Ranch Foundation, a
501(c)( 3) designated tax-deductible charity.
the ranch, all that changed. “We could let down
our guard,” Rard says. “I slept like a rock.”
Cohen was 47 when he retired from the
fixed-income department at Kidder, Peabody, a
securities firm that no longer exists. “OK,
you’ve done way beyond your wildest expecta-
tions,” he said to himself. “Now go do some-
thing for mankind.”
After an initial venture with Make-A-Wish
Foundation, which serves terminally ill chil-
dren, Cohen decided to reach out to another
group. “When you see these poor kids coming
back with no arms and no legs …” As a former
infantryman in the California National Guard,
he says, he just felt he had to do something.
Pain for a purpose
patriotpaws.org) founder and
executive director Lori Stevens to
offer inmates at its Gatesville,
Texas, facility as service dog
trainers. Stevens was already
training service dogs for veter-
ans, and she wanted to
expand her program, but
didn’t have the funding to hire
more trainers. Using inmates to
train the dogs meant that Patriot
PAWS could serve more veterans,
so Stevens gladly signed on.
Now 75 percent of Patriot PAWS
dogs start out with inmate trainers.
Inmates have to apply for the program, and
must have six months’ good behavior behind
them. They go through a rigorous series of
interviews, including a meet-and-greet with
their potential puppy. “Dogs are a good judge of
people,” says Stevens, a Costco member. “They
have to help make the decision.”
The dogs work their magic on inmates, too.
Statistically, most inmates become reoffenders
during the first year of their release. Among the
inmates involved in Patriot PAWS, only one in 39
has returned to prison.
NOVEMBER 2012 ;e Costco Connection 113
MAGINE TACKLING 20 to 25
tough obstacles under a variety
of conditions, such as 15-foot
rope-ladder climbs, mud pits and
icy water endurance tests, along with a
10K race, supervised by a demanding
crew of elite active and veteran members
of the military. Boot camp? No, but close.
The Thunder Challenge (http://thunder
challenge.us) is the closest most folks will
ever get to experiencing some of the phys-
ical and mental challenges faced by U.S.
special operations forces.
“We have created the first endurance
event planned, produced and manned by
Navy SEALs and U.S. Special Forces sol-
diers,” explains Costco member Rusty
Schellman, a former Army Blackhawk
helicopter pilot, and the CEO of Thunder
Challenge, which he founded in 2011.
The first Thunder Challenge took
place in August 2012 in Larkspur,
Colorado. The next will be staged on
December 8 in San Diego. At least four
events are scheduled for 2013.
The event is meant to connect participants to the military in more than just one
way. A full 25 percent of the proceeds of
each race goes to Project Sanctuary (www.
projectsanctuary.us), a Colorado-based
nonprofit organization that helps veterans
and active-duty personnel and their fami-
CONTINUED ON PAGE 114