A mental health counselor in Fort Myers, Florida was recently awarded the title of 2016 Local Hero by the Tropical Financial Credit Union for her foundation and the work that it does with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
The Miles for Smiles Foundation was created by Gail Doxie after the loss of her 17-year-old son, Miles. Miles was just a few weeks away from entering the Air Force at the time of his death.
“Being able to help others in honor of your lost child helps you to work through things also,” Doxie said.
The foundation sits on a 20-acre ranch that has a focus on equine assisted therapy and other horse assisted learning programs for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operations Enduring Freedom veterans who may be suffering from a mental health disorders such as PTSD.
Miles for Smiles and Gail Doxie have helped many veterans over the years through these horse assisted programs, one example being Bobbi Meniaci.
While on deployment, Meniaci would work 12-hour shifts and be consistently under high amounts of stress. These long stressful shifts lead to mental health issues upon his return to the states. Once home, Bobbi found tasks such as driving to be extremely stressful.
“When I first got back, I had to pull over on the side of the road constantly,” Meniaci said.
At the same time, Meniaci was recovering from a gunshot wound and a failed marriage.
But, that all changed once Bobbi met Doxie.
“I wouldn’t have even hung out with the guy I was three years ago,” Meniaci said.
Gail does not charge veterans for her services and also offers service learning hours to local college students at Florida Gulf Coast University.