5K raises $17,500 for Veterans Path to Hope in Crystal Lake to help vets with PTSD

Runners at Huntley High School May 26, 2024, raise $17,500 for Veterans Path to Hope in Crystal Lake.

A 5K held last month at Huntley High School raised $17,500 to help military veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sina Balouch, director at Transformations Counseling, which has locations in Lake in the Hills and Rockford, along with You Are Not Alone, hosted Heroes For Hope on May 26 and surpassed the goal of $10,000.

The money is being donated to Veterans Path to Hope in Crystal Lake, a nonprofit providing services to military veterans in McHenry County. The money will fund mental health services for veterans struggling with PTSD from drone attacks and other instances of war.

“Veterans Path to Hope does so much for our community, and we are grateful to be able to bring about change with them,” said Balouch, co-founder of YNA. “Our veterans struggle daily, and the work is not over, but I am genuinely proud that we are headed in the right direction.”

Laura Franz, executive director of Veterans Path to Hope, said the money will help with the drop-in resource center in Crystal Lake, which provides on-site veteran peer support specialists. The specialists provide assistance “to veterans with mental health issues, substance use disorders and general barriers in their life causing them stress,” Franz said.

People who need help can call, email or “drop in” if needed, she said.

The nonprofit also will go to the homes of elderly veterans and those who cannot drive should they need services, Franz said.

Robert Henevich, a peer support specialist, said that in March, a Vietnam veteran he was helping in his Woodstock home told him that he had not seen his father, a World War II veteran, for 30 years. His father lives in Lombard, and neither of the two drive. So Henevich drove the Vietnam veteran to see his father just days after his 97th birthday.

“I will take vets where they want to go if they have a good reason to get there – anything that enriches their life,” Henevich said. “The main thing is trying to fight isolation within the vet community. Anything we can do to connect vets with others they feel safe and comfortable with, we aim to do.”

The drop-in center, at 805 N. McHenry Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. It also has a food pantry on-site. About 550 veterans receive services at the center annually, and the nonprofit helps more than 1,000 each year, Franz said.

Balouch said seeing how the military changed a loved one – he suffered with major depression and insomnia and no longer looked like himself – “created a passion” in Balouch’s heart to help other veterans.

Balouch said that Dr. Ryan Rogers, president of the PTSD Foundation of America, explained on Balouch’s podcast that when veterans come home, talking to someone is difficult. They also hesitate to reach out for help.

“People should not struggle alone in their mental health,” Balouch said. “Mental health education should be spread to communities that need it.”

Balouch said healing begins with a conversation in a “nonjudgmental, safe space where you can talk about your struggles.”

Runners at a 5K at Huntley High School May 26, 2024, that raised $17,500 to help military veterans at Veterans Path to Hope in Crystal Lake traced their hands and wrote the names of the veterans they ran for.

He said the run, which had 41 runners and took place inside the school’s fieldhouse because of rain, was a success. The event included vendors such as Ken Talaga, who works on Flutes For Vets, which helps provide instruments to veterans with PTSD or mental health disorders. An art piece was created to memorialize the day, featuring participants’ hands with name tags honoring the veterans for whom they walked or ran, Balouch said. Healing, he said, begins with a conversation.

“YNA is participating in the change and movement to help our community with their mental health,” Boulach said. “This is just the beginning, and we are excited to see where the future will take us. Please remember you’re not alone.”

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