Veterans Walk and Talk – California
Colin Wells, an army veteran, uses his own life experiences to help others through theirs as the founder of Veterans Walk and Talk, an organization which takes vets and supporters on nature hikes in southern California and beyond. Wells is also a cannabis enthusiast, and his organization recommends the plant as an anxiety-reducer on its website.
Over light jokes, Wells briefly shares a few memories as a child with a parent in the entertainment industry — his mother directed the LA-based Groundlings Theatre which catalyzed the careers of comedians like Lisa Kudrow and Melissa McCarthy, among others. He even voiced a background character in Steven Spielberg’s animated series “Animaniacs,” when he was a child.
Other parts of his past, which he shared with DOPE, were less whimsical, including overcoming opioid abuse, and military life afterward. While in basic training, he was able to detox and create bonds stronger than those he had before his service. Unfortunately, widespread early retirement would soon change that.
Thrown back into civilian life, Wells saw himself juggling a familiar loneliness, much like others he was deployed with and was subsequently prescribed opioids after an injury.
During this time, one of the few places Wells found solace was in nature. Hiking had always been a favored activity, and cannabis became part of his back-to-nature recovery protocol. Coming out of his own anxiety after service, Wells found that veterans often shy from the topics that plague them. Being surrounded by those who struggle with the same things, however, can break down the stress of discussing things openly. A bit of bud always helps too.
Using social media, Wells found himself connecting with numerous veterans and activists. Currently, Wells spearheads weekly hikes with veterans and supporters, typically on Sundays. The hikes, spanning over six cities and counting, are open to anyone the only stipulation being non-veterans have to “BYOB” – a small price to pay for meeting new friends and a day of nature-derived R&R. In addition to VW&T, Wells assists in other community-driven events such as Beauty 2 the Streetz run by Shirley Raines, Raines and her team provide showers, food, makeup and hair coloring to the homeless. Helping the veteran community and defending our favorite plant remain Wells’ priority. He regularly aids the Veterans Canna-Coalition as they push for legislation designed to support and protect veterans.
What started as small hikes, many times alone, has evolved into a growing network of those willing to go the extra mile. Wells encourages others to duplicate what he has created in their own city, helping VW&T grow their reach and support. Whether it be with his fellow vets or with the surrounding community, Wells continues to spread unity through his community with a joint and a walk. Follow VW&T on social media to see how you can get involved!