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Q&A with Leslie Mayne

Founder of Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation

By Marguerite Cleveland

Photo by Samantha Elise Tillman

Born out of her tremendous grief, Leslie Mayne turned the tragedy of her son’s death into a way to help veterans by helping them make peace with their past. The Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation brings hope and healing for veterans and first responders who are suffering from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress. Since 2011, the foundation has worked with local organizations with existing programs as well as developing their own programs, including monthly peer-to-peer support meetings and a weeklong retreat that focuses on post-traumatic growth.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your son and how he inspired the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation?

A. My son Kyle Marshall Farr was committed to his family, country and didn’t like bullies. He loved football, his mama’s cooking and hoped to have a wife, house, family and become a journalist. He struggled greatly after he returned from Iraq and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Kyle was treated at the VA hospital in Perry Point, Maryland, for several months. He overmedicated the first night out of the VA hospital in a hotel room. He lost his life at 27. The love has to go somewhere, so my love for him went to honoring his service and trying to save other soldiers who struggle. I wanted to see if the community would support the idea of a Race For A Soldier, where proceeds would go to alternative and progressive programs instead of just offering psychotropic drugs. The community showed up in a big way the first year of the race in 2011. We were able to raise money and awareness, and it is still going strong 11 years later.

Q. Did your background as a health-care service coordinator help you in deciding what programs to offer through the PTSD Foundation?

A. It helped me with understanding the nonprofit world a little. Honestly, there were not any programs for soldiers or first responders dealing with trauma outside of the VA in 2009. There was, however, an epidemic of suicides and reckless living when they returned from Iraq. I searched everywhere and found a few local organizations that were attempting to help with equine therapy and outdoor experiences, but none had a sustaining effect that I could see until I found Warrior PATHH back in Virginia in 2013.

Q. How did you come up with the name?

A. Shortly after I started planning the Race For A Soldier, word got out and I was invited to Camp Murray to speak. I felt unqualified to speak, was still very emotionally raw and was very nervous. I was sitting in a room with some impressive military leadership. I said a prayer and asked God to give me the courage to get through it and the words to say. I look behind me and there was a large white board behind some chairs. In bold marker it had the letters P T S D, and lightly scribbled in between those letters the words Permission To Start Dreaming. I was blown away by that acronym because so many of the drugs my son was given was for nightmares. Those words were exactly what I was trying to achieve—to turn the nightmares into dreams. I sought out the author and came up with nothing, so I stole them for our name. I hope one day I meet the person who penned what is now a movement and a mission. They are not my words; they are on loan for us to fix the problem.

Q. Can you share a success story the foundation has had? What did that mean to you?

A. Twofold when I think of our golf tournament, Swing For A Soldier, led by Packy Rieder, veteran. Packy went to Warrior PATTH, the program we now are delivering to the PNW, thanks to our association with the Gary Sinise Avalon Network that we are a part of. One of the tenets of WP is continuing to serve and lead. He directs one of the best golf tournaments in the area, and it draws hundreds of compassionate allies who learn about our programs and enjoy a wonderful day of golf while raising a little money.

Q. COVID-19 has challenged many nonprofits’ fundraising capabilities. Do you have any events or fundraising opportunities coming up that we can share with our readers?

A. I just mentioned the Swing For A Soldier; registration [began] on April 12. It sells out fast. Race For A Soldier is September 19, and registration is open. We are going forward with the half marathon, 10-mile and 5k, and hopeful that everyone will feel comfortable. COVID has challenged us for sure, but we are living in faith and going forward to serve our veterans and first responders with our monthly Huddles the last Wednesday of every month. We serve dinner and offer connection and community. It continues to grow and impact, allowing those who attend to feel heard and valued. A safe place to come to and share the trials and the victories. There they can find resources and community.

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