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Mike’s Canva Story: How K9s For Warriors Is Helping Veterans Heal And Have Hope For The Future

For a large part of his life, Mike Drafts’ main mission was simple: to serve and protect his country.

Growing up on his family’s horse and cattle ranch in South Carolina, Mike joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after graduating from high school. He served his military career both domestically and abroad, including deployments to Okinawa and South Korea, and held senior training roles within the Marines.

After close to 12 years of service, Mike was honorably discharged in 2005 and returned home.

He speaks openly about the challenges and anxiety he experienced while transitioning to civilian life.

“When I left the military, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t the same person. I struggled somewhat trying to find my new normal without my fellow [veterans]. The invisible wounds of war left me with self-doubt and insecurities. I didn’t feel connected to anyone or anything,” he tells Canva.

Mike’s Future Mission

By 2017, Mike’s life started to take on a new meaning and direction when an opportunity presented itself to join K9s For Warriors. As America’s largest veteran service organization, K9s For Warriors supports U.S. veterans diagnosed with service-connected PTSD by pairing them with highly-trained service dogs.

Today, Mike is the Warriors Operations Manager and leads the core team that communicates and supports the nearly 700 veteran graduates of its program across the United States.

Our mission is to honor our nation's veterans by integrating them back into society with dignity and respect, and ultimately ending veteran suicide.”

“We’re basically saving two lives at once,” he says, adding that the majority of dogs are rescued from shelters across the U.S. and enter an eight-month service-dog training regimen to prepare them for a new home.

Mike admits his own personal experience in the Marine Corps and ongoing struggles with PTSD has allowed him to quickly build trust and close connections with Warriors within the K9s program.

“I completely understand and have experienced that same self-doubt and despair. The absolute emptiness that consumes you, breaks you daily, and makes you withdraw and isolate. We’re sometimes the only call that veterans make, because they trust us. They’re not looking at me thinking that I’m judging them. We're giving them, you know, the first chance to hope for something different,” he said.

Creating Meaningful Messages Through Design

All Warriors within the K9s program have been diagnosed with a type of disability, such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can often include memory loss and impaired cognitive skills.

Global visual communications platform, Canva, became a critical tool for Mike and his team to create colorful designs utilising data, images, and infographics, that resonate with those with combat injuries.

“Canva is a huge part of our mission, in that we’re communicating with veterans who have disabilities.”

“Those disabilities could affect the way that communication is interpreted. Having clear concise visual messaging ensures a better response.”

“Canva helps me convey our message of hope and healing. With Canva I can design presentations, flyers and social media content that my Warriors can respond to. It makes my job so much easier,” he says.

And without any previous design experience, Mike admits Canva’s ease of use and collaboration capabilities made it much simpler for him and his team to quickly create and approve designs.

“Canva is so easy, a Marine can use it!” he laughs.

“I can always see each person’s contribution in each finished project. That sense of ownership is something you’re proud to be a part of.”

“My goal is to increase the number of Warriors we service. And we can make that happen by spending less time designing and more time communicating with our community.”

Spreading Hope For The Future

From his office at K9s For Warriors’ Ponte Vedra Beach campus, Mike candidly shares that the phenomenal life-changing feedback he receives is what drives him, and his team, to push forward.

“One of the things that I hear a lot is, ‘Thank you for giving me my life back,” he says.

“I got a phone call yesterday from somebody who shared ‘I went to my kid’s basketball game for the first time. I haven’t been able to go in three years.’ Essentially, we’re giving them a sense of who they were before.”

“I never have to wonder if we’ve had an impact on somebody. We save lives every day.”

“Our mission is to end veteran suicide, however that may be. To give [veterans] something to live for. And that’s it, that’s what we do. We give them hope.”

Mike Drafts is one of three Canva community members appearing in the company’s ‘With Canva, you can’ campaign.

. . .

The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 to help any veteran or loved one of a veteran experiencing a mental health crisis. Visit VeteransCrisisLine.net or text 838255.

For immediate help if you or someone you know are in a crisis, call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via the toll-free hotline at 1–800–273–8255.

Written by

Mel Cornford

Mel Cornford is Canva's Community Stories Editor


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