Our own Executive Director, Mark Otto, was honored by Samaritan Daytop Village at its annual gala on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
The purpose of the gala was to raise funds to support Samaritan Daytop Village’s efforts to combat substance use disorder and to serve veterans in need. Mark was recognized for his work in creating UWVC’s Health & Wellness programs, which have achieved over 1,000 veteran interactions to date, including hundreds with Samaritan Daytop Village clients.
Mark’s fellow honorees were Sher Sparano, Senior Vice President of OneGroup Benefits Advisory Service and Tino Hernandez, former President and CEO of Samaritan Daytop Village.
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Thank you for this recognition. It’s an honor to be here with you in support of such a worthy cause. I’d like to acknowledge my UWVC family that’s here with me tonight including Board Members, volunteers and my Operations Team including Jeff Swansen who is a Samaritan Daytop Village Alumni.
I’m happy to say that Jeff has been with the UWVC for over 9 years and is our Head of Operations. He is a shining example of what is possible if these vets are given the opportunity. Jeff was my first exposure to Samaritan and after hearing about the wonderful work that they do I was compelled to find a way for the UWVC to help out. Jeff made the introduction to our good friend Beverly Houston and together we began discussions for things to come.
The UWVC Health and Wellness Program in partnership with Samaritan Daytop Village was created to offer participating veterans with a variety of holistic experiences including; rucking with GORUCK, sailing with Sail Ahead, art therapy with Ani Art Academy and equine therapy with Serenity Stables from Combat to Calm. The program is earning and deserving so it our hope that the veterans will be motivated to follow through with Samaritan’s four step program resulting in an increased graduation rate.
Sailing is done on Long Island. All of the other experiences take place in the scenic Navesink River area of New Jersey where the local community has embraced having the veterans come to visit. Multiple restaurants support our program including Umberto’s restaurant, 5 Guys, Texas Roadhouse and Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen.
It’s been a rewarding experience to see first hand the breakthroughs that are being made like the sense of comradery when we go on ruck marches, the pure joy on a veterans face who’s never been sailing when he takes the helm for the first time or seeing the equine connection made between a horse and a veteran who’s never stepped foot on a farm.
One of my favorite experiences was when Carl Campbell informed us after many trips out to the country that he’d no longer be able to visit. Carl was hired by a company that I had arranged for him to interview with. The founder of that company was a veteran that I had mentored years before on the New York Stock Exchange.
In closing, all veterans have something in common. They’ve all taken an oath to defend our country. I think they deserve a second chance. In some cases to heal and in others it’s a chance to redeem themselves.
I’m happy to say that since it’s inception we’ve had over a thousand veteran interactions through our program. I look forward to many more in the years to come.