#NewWarrior Kalani Creutzburg, a formerly homeless Marine veteran, started a non-profit Cammies and Canines. Cammies and Canines provides transitional services to homeless vets, rescues dogs and trains rescued dogs to serve transitioning veterans. They were given a given a 289 acre site outside San Diego to train dogs and work with vets. In addition, MKP is hosting NWTAs there!
Cammies & Canines’ story began in 2015 after their founder Kalani Creutzburg, returned from deployment and found himself homeless while having to work through personal issues from his deployments, struggling with a divorce, and coping with the death of the grandparents who raised him. Fast forward two years later to a true Cinderella story where one goes from rags to riches (figuratively speaking). Cammies & Canines was born in the living room of a man who brought Kalani off the streets and into his home. He asked Kalani, “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” Wanting to match dogs with veterans Cammies & Canines was launched with a mission to help other homeless veterans find healing through canine companionship (hence the name Cammies & Canines!).
According to their mission, Cammies and Canines helps veterans by providing sober living transitional housing, a cooperative community, emotional wellness, canine companionship, a chance to rediscover their purpose and gain job experience so that they can again succeed as contributing citizens in our society.
We interviewed Kalani about how MKP has influence his work:
What has being part of MKP done for your life and your work?
Kalani said “The ManKind Project completely changed my life for the better. Prior to discovering MKP I was a macho man who was too tough to cry and thought only women had feelings. I was a Marine Corps Officer not authorized to feel my emotions, which served me well in life until it didn’t anymore.
After returning home from a 7-month deployment struggling with what I now know was PTSD, I found myself staring down the barrel of my second divorce. It was a struggle accepting the fact that I was the common denominator.
Unable to reconcile how I could lead 180 Marines but not my own household, I felt like a fake, I was a failure and questioned reasons to continue living. The world, my kids, my family and my friends were better off without me. It would have been my third suicide attempt, but thankfully I raised my hand and called for help. ManKind Project answered the call.
MKP gave me permission, for the first time in my life, to touch my feelings. I learned how to give words to my emotions. I shed tears that were locked inside for so long. I let out years of anger without harming anyone else, and each time I saw myself in a mirror. I felt like a monster for so long but the reflection in the mirror was a scared little boy that needed a voice.
Watch this video for an introduction to Cammies and Canines work.
Thanks to my work with MKP I discovered that I didn’t need to be afraid of myself. I used to believe that I was inadequate, incapable, and inferior for so long. MKP taught me how to examine those beliefs and dig deep until uncovering the root issue. After taking my mask off for the first time in 35 years I discovered a scared little boy had been silent within me and ignored for so long. So I gave him a voice and listened. My little boy taught me that all the pain and hurt I had been struggling with was the very thing that made me the beautiful person I am today. There was no reason to be afraid. The wild man, my little boy, had been unleashed!”
How has MKP influenced your work with Cammies & Canines?
It’s 100% because of MKP that Cammies & Canines exists. In the Marine Corps I was always given a mission. In our mission statements was always 2 things: a very specific task and a very specific purpose. Once I was out of the Marine Corps, however, I no longer had a mission, which meant I no longer had purpose. I was lost and depressed but MKP helped me write a new mission for myself. Thanks to MKP I now have purpose again. I create a better world by loving others and myself.
Cammies & Canines is merely a story about ‘paying it forward’. I wanted to help other transitioning veterans rewrite their own mission thereby giving them purpose again. It’s evolved over the past 2 years. I used to create care packages to give homeless veterans in hopes to start conversations; now I house them on a 289 acre ranch in San Diego where I pair them with rescue dogs – truly saving 2 lives at once! I host peer-to-peer support groups (like an I-Group with tons of masculine energy) every week, we also take care of goats, have chickens laying fresh eggs, soon we’ll have horses, and we even have a labyrinth!
We were recently honored by San Diego as a Small Business Award winner, highlighted on ABC news, interviewed on a few radio stations, and even have our own TV show on Animal Planet “Rescue Dog to Super Dog”. (Watch episode 1 “Never Give Up”). I make sure to give credit where credit is due and always mention ManKind Project!
It’s been quite the journey these past 3 years. With the constant support of MKP , I made it through my dark struggles with suicide. I’ve since moved into a loving space helping others, which is actually helping myself. Interesting to think Cammies & Canines was really brought about from a single question asked of me by fellow warrior brother Dominick Mazotti “what would you do if you knew you would not fail?” For every response I came up with I was met with the same question. Ultimately I realized that Kalani was the only reason why I wasn’t living my dream – I was in my own way. Then later I was asked by another warrior brother “stop playing it small, when are you finally going to realize the leader you already are?” Together those 2 questions continue to inspire me every single day to move past my shame, my fears, and my pain. Now all I see are opportunities where others see dead ends, and I am determined to be a voice for others especially veterans.
Though Kalani attended the NewWarrior Training Adventure in Northern California in May 2015, he has already staff 5 trainings! In addition, he says” I’m acting in my own make-believe role “Veterans Outreach Director” which means nothing other than I am a dedicated advocate for veterans in MKP as well as bringing MKP to the veteran community.”
To further their work, Cammies and Canines have been given the 289-acre site outside of San Diego. The Cammies & Canines Sanctuary sits in a valley between picturesque peaks and blue skies! Currently, the site includes seven different structures including a community kitchen and lodge, independent male and female showers, three apartments, and three two bedroom homes, 40 recreational camping sites and multiple RV hookups. More than enough room to house transitioning veterans, dogs, horses, livestock and more!
How can MKP brothers become involved with your work?
I ask for nothing in return other than continue to bring other veterans to this work. If MKP could rescue me from swallowing a shotgun shell to now living a purpose-driven life than other veterans can be saved too! On average the veteran suicide rate is 22 per day; the work we do (both MKP and Cammies & Canines) is a real solution to this problem. Perhaps we can have the first ever military & first responder focused NWTA here at the Cammies & Canines Sanctuary?
I am getting ready to walk 150 miles from Los Angeles to the Cammies & Canines Sanctuary in hope to raise funds and awareness. Symbolic of the avg 22-suicide rate mentioned above, I will walk 22 miles per day carrying a 50 lbs rucksack (10 lbs for every military branch). The hike will begin September 5, 2018 end on September 11 (9/11). My ask of anybody reading this is that you pledge $1 per mile I hike and to register 10 other donors at $1 per mile I hike as well! Join the GoFundMe Campaign here.