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Lindsay and Richard Puente of Cast and Hook often partner with Lisa and Greg Hungiville of Sheep Dog IA to serve the greatest number of first responders and military they can. Submitted.

Author of “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv, writes “spare time in the garden, either digging, setting out or weeding; there is no better way to preserve your health.” 

The healing powers of nature as well as an active lifestyle are being put into practice by two new nonprofits who serve military and first responders of western Wisconsin and the greater Twin Cities.

Both Cast and Hook Fishing and Sheep Dog Impact Assistance are providing activities and spaces for first responders, veterans and their families to navigate difficult pasts, especially ones leading to PTSD and other mental illnesses. 

The mission of Sheep Dog IA is to “improve the lives of our nation’s veterans and first responders in need by helping them ‘get off the couch’ and engage in living an active, meaningful and productive life through our outdoor adventures, Warrior PATHH and Disaster Response Mission Programs.” 

About a year ago, Lisa, who served 34 years in the military, and Greg Hungiville, who served 25 years in the military, founded the Greater Twin Cities team of this nonprofit. 

“We are tired of people committing suicide,” Greg said. “We feel like there is not enough [resources] out there to help the people that need help.” 

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One of the programs Sheep Dog IA provides for military and first responders is horse back riding. Submitted.

To serve this population, Sheep Dog IA brings folks on what they call outdoor adventures. These include hunting, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and fishing, which is where a partnership with Cast and Hook comes in. 

“We recognize that there are many first responders out there who are struggling with PTSD,” Lindsay Puente, mental health counselor at Christian Heart Counseling, said. “Cast and Hook started in June of 2021 with my husband having a dream of what we were going to be doing. And he spelled it all out and told me exactly what it was going to look like and I said ‘let’s do it.’ And we’re doing it.” 

Richard Puente, Lindsay’s husband, is a police officer in St. Paul. Part of his vision was to promote breaking the stigma of mental health in the first responder community and with the wider public.

“We don’t see the trauma, but we hear it every single day,” Lindsay said. “It’s OK to struggle because these things are really difficult to navigate.” 

Cast and Hook’s provides opportunities for fishing and kayaking for first responders and veterans struggling with PTSD, often times working with Sheep Dog and their members. 

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Lisa Hungiville retired from the military as a Sergeant Major. Submitted.

“We have built upon each other,” said Lisa. The partnership between the organizations is inseparable. Both Sheep Dog and Cast and Hook see a future where they will continue to work together to serve the greatest number of people possible. “It’s about being with each other.” 

It’s easy to get involved. As a first responder or veteran, choose a body of water on the Cast and Hook website. Contact the team and request an outing. Volunteers in the area will help set up an experience and Cast and Hook will pay for the live bait needed. There is no cost to the attendees. 

“There is always support. That’s why we do what we do. We want you to realize you’re loved,” Greg said. 

Both of these organizations are expecting future growth and success.

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