Wyakin Foundation Sees Record Program Enrollment To Support Veterans
“Breakfast burritos are my spirit animal” or something cute and quirky like that is quite commonplace to hear or read on social media these days. These popular alter ego, guardian mascots have a more serious origin. Spirit animals were originally named a “Wyakin”. Weyekin or Wyakin is a Nez Perce word for a type of spiritual being. To receive a weyekin, a young person around the age of 12 to 15 would go to the mountains on a vision quest. The person about to go on this quest would be tutored by a renowned warrior, hunter, or medicine man, for boys, or for girls, an elderly woman of reputed power. Success had much to do with how they prepared their minds. Fasting for long periods of time, going without a fire, holding their spiritual retreat in a remote and awe inspiring location.
According to Native legend, a wyakin is a spiritual being that guides and protects a person throughout life. As a rite of passage, adolescents were taken to an isolated location where they remained alone and vulnerable until visited by a wyakin (often in the form of an animal or bird) in a vision or dream. Once the wyakin spirit had revealed itself, it stayed with the individual and served as a guiding force for life.
The Wyakin Foundation chose it’s name because like those spirit animals their program for injured and wounded veterans has been established to serve as a guiding force for the life of each warrior inducted. For those of us who have never served in the military there is a lot about civilian life that we can easily take for granted. Our day to day routines, social circles, and professional networks can feel instinctive and so much a part of us that we can’t imagine a life without those comforts and safety nets. In a recent follow up interview with the Wyakin Foundation we came to understand that the transition for an injured or wounded veteran back into civilian life is indeed daunting and full of new challenges.
In the military a soldier knows the men and women around them at all times. The military lifestyle clearly defines an individual’s role to great detail. Going forward into active duty provides clearly defined responsibilities and objectives that leave no guessing or questions as to next steps. When our military service men and women experience an injury or are wounded in battle, all they know in life can be stripped away in an instant. A medical discharge from military service can result in overwhelming feelings of failure, loss of confidence and lack of purpose. Long after physical recovery and rehabilitation the tight knit sense of community is still vacant in most cases. Wounded and injured veterans face loneliness, isolation and find themselves at high risk of depression and social anxiety. So the normal challenges everyday civilians experience in obtaining higher education and successful employment can seem nearly impossible for a veteran without the right kind of support.
We hear the phrase “The struggle is real” often used to describe trivial first world problems. The Wyakin Foundation acknowledges the reality of the struggles that are met by these veterans in need of support, but the foundation’s focus is on strength instead of struggle. The emphasis is put on the cultural strengths of the veteran experience – discipline, loyalty, selflessness – to create success in the academic setting as a precedent for success beyond.
The assistance with higher education, mentoring, and networking are all invaluable components to the foundation’s program. In our interview with one of the current enrollees Michael Garloch, he shared just how the program expedites his professional aspirations.
One of my favorite things that Wyakin does is their networking events. They host networking events every three months. That is just an opportunity for us to connect with people in the community. Get plugged in and resources for upcoming careers we are about to enter after school. I have met so many people from that. I wouldn’t have some of the opportunities that I might have without Wyakin. I would probably get there eventually, but not as fast as with Wyakin’s help.
President and CEO Brent Taylor shared that the program is established to serve as a network, a family, and a companion to these individuals for life. The system of accountability that is created with each warrior that is enrolled provides them with life changing checkpoints. This steady routine of checking in allows each veteran to overcome obstacles and challenges by obtaining advice and council from volunteer veterans that have been in their shoes and know where they are coming from. This atmosphere of common bonds helps to form relationships of trust and dependability.
Like any organization that serves our communities a critical component is funding. At the first annual fundraiser gala for A Giving Circle the Wyakin Foundation was gifted over $39,000. This funding allowed the program to enroll it’s largest class yet. The foundation was nominated for A Giving Circle by our Amherst Madison Agent, Vicky Smith. Vicky has volunteered with the Wyakin Foundation and provided her time, energy, and project management experience towards their mission and initiatives.
Our 2019 A Giving Circle event is on the calendar for December 14th. We have selected three new local nonprofit organizations that will receive gifted donations towards their cause. Last year’s event raised $112,500 in total for five organizations. Every selected nonprofit will go home with generous funds and we are hoping this year’s event will be even bigger and better. At this time our biggest priority is to build our RSVP list. Please visit the event page to mark your interest and receive updates, news, and announcements. If you or your organization might be considering a sponsorship of this prestigious event please contact us via email today: firstname.lastname@example.org.