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Calgary agency provides ‘very healing’ support for first responders during pandemic

Click to play video: 'Calgary agency provides ‘very healing’ support for first responders during COVID-19 pandemic' Calgary agency provides ‘very healing’ support for first responders during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: First responders on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19 are getting some much-needed support from Calgarians. As Gil Tucker reports, an agency that provides relief for the responders is now busier than it’s ever been. – Jun 10, 2021

Her canine companion Willow has been a big part of Marla Schultz’s life for the past six years, helping the Calgary EMS paramedic through some difficult times.

“She’s a PTSD service dog,” Schultz said. “I had a traumatic event at work (which) involved a small child, and I have small children at home, so I was having a hard time.”

Schultz and other emergency personnel are now facing another kind of stress: working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Alberta hunters help first responders dealing with PTSD

“We are afraid that we’ll bring COVID home to our families,” Schultz said.

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Canadian Mental Health Association on how Albertans are holding up – May 7, 2021

A Calgary non-profit group that’s been supporting first responders for the past 20 years is now busier than ever.

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“The pandemic has been very difficult,” Legacy Place Society executive director Diana Festejo said.

Read more: In Harm’s Way: The PTSD crisis among Canada’s first responders

The agency offers people like police officers, firefighters and paramedics relief, with short-term stays in houses it owns.

“(Which provides) a chance to really process things, talk to others that are in the houses,” Festejo said. “It (offers) a great peer perspective and also (a chance to) recognize that they’re not alone in their situations.

Legacy Place also provides equine therapy and other support.

“My husband is also a first responder — a firefighter here in Calgary — and they offer a family camp, so we take our kids out there,” Schultz said.

“They teach kids how to cope with having parents that are stressed or parents that are working nights and have to sleep in the day and are upset about something.”

Read more: Emergency responders’ jobs changing in face of coronavirus pandemic

Legacy Place is getting much-needed support from Calgarians.

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Local realtor Justin Havre has donated almost $40,000 to the agency during the pandemic.

“These people are heroes in our community,” Havre said. “They are on the frontlines, seeing a lot of pretty traumatic stuff.”

First responders are carrying on through COVID-19, grateful for anything that helps.

“Willow will wake me up from bad dreams and she’ll stick her wet nose in my face when I’m crying,” Schultz said “She’s just good at making you happy and calming you down.”

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