Formerly a counterterrorism expert, Jeff M. Epstein is the founder and president of Healing the Wounds. He has an impressive background in various fields, dedicating over 40 years of his professional life to real estate, mortgage banking, marketing, business management, media relations and country. As the founder of Healing the Wounds, he always wanted to give back to children and families of those who have served the United States. By incorporating his love and appreciation of our country as well as the outdoors, Jeff decided to start a year-round mentoring program for the children of our nation’s fallen heroes.
Here IWM caught up with Jeff to discuss ways he is contributing to healing the next generation with Healing The Wounds (HTW) by creating an lasting impact on those who participate.
How did Healing the Wounds start?
We created Healing the Wounds as a solutions-based initiative, to focus on the positive – to build character, self-confidence and leadership skills. Our end-goal is to prepare these teenagers to lead successful lives as responsible citizens and stewards of the land.
HTW’s permanent program commences with an educational, wilderness experience in Alaska that’s conducted under the supervision of seasoned professionals and PhD’s (oceanography and marine sciences). Among other activities, the children are exposed to coastal navigation, seamanship, safe-boating skills, marine life in natural settings and a dozen potential career paths. They will also be certified in life-saving skills – first-aid and CPR. Early on, we were blessed to have Capt. Mykel Hawke (Green Beret, retired) come aboard. Schedule permitting, Mykel will be on the ground in Alaska –providing hands-on instruction to the children. Mykel is best known for his work on the Discovery and History Channels.
We are planning to go operational during the summer of 2021 and should be able to accommodate 170 surviving teenagers.
After the conclusion of the program, the year-round support will continue through a 24/7 call-in center, educational initiatives, and an internship program through which they can secure marketable, job-related skills. Healing the Wounds’ online educational / personal development programs will be made available to any interested child – regardless of family military / law-enforcement status. Thus, providing Healing the Wounds with the opportunity to potentially impact millions of kids across the country. (The Army alone has over 20,000 children under its wings – many of which they intend to channel in our direction).
In support of our permanent program, Healing the Wounds sponsored a “Pilot Week” for a representative group of children that were referred by the Army. The pilot program convinced HTW that lives can be changed by instilling a sense of hope through education, outdoor experience and group support. Our program offers these teens comfort in knowing that there is a network of people rooting for their success. Being a teenager is challenging enough without the added stress and pain associated with parental loss. With Healing the Wounds, we are able to provide surviving teenagers with unique opportunities to encourage each other along – on levels in which only they can relate. In similar fashion to how our veterans and first responders help each other cope, these children bonding with each other is key to their own healing.
Can you talk about some of the young adults who have gone through HTW’s Pilot program?
One of the boys, who participated in the pilot program, resides in an inner-city community with his paternal grandparents (adoptive parents). At the age of 17 months, he lost his father on the front lines in Afghanistan. He has never had a friend visit after school and can’t go outside over fear of being shot. In fact, the week prior to our “Pilot Week”, their family car was struck by gunfire. I have remained in regular contact with his grandmother. She has credited us with changing his life. He’s now performing household chores without being asked, exercised his way into shape, is competing in high-school sports and is performing incredibly well in school – honor roll (“F’s to “A’s).
Another teen who attended suffered through the family’ military loss ten years ago. He was also subjected to numerous brain surgeries over a blood-clotting disorder – between six months of age and his 12th birthday. His grandmother begged me to let him into the program. According to her, he was so bullied in school over his surgical scarring, that he hadn’t cracked a smile in several years. We had him laughing within an hour of arrival. Sadly, he was hospitalized last month after suffering six simultaneous brain bleeds. Our prayers have been answered and he’s on the mend.
Highlights of the Pilot Week were captured on film and edited down into a short movie – nothing was scripted. The movie was just released and can be seen below.
How can people contribute to Healing the Wounds?
They can donate via our website at: https://www.healingthewounds.org/
We are currently hosting a silent auction to raise funds – the highest bidder will receive a 2021 Pacific boat. The boating package has a value of about $90,000 and is comprised of a custom 23-foot welded-aluminum, center-console vessel with a hardtop that’s powered by a 225 hp Suzuki outboard engine and delivered on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. Non-boaters may bid on the wholesale cash value of the vessel – approximately $80,000.
Bids must be received no later than Midnight on March 30, 2021. The winner will be announced the following week, and vessel delivery is planned for the 2021 boating season.