ROME, Maine (AP) — A lakeside retreat created by an Army veteran who lost all four limbs in an explosion in Afghanistan has proven so successful that it’s extending its inaugural season.
The Travis Mills Foundation’s facility, at the former home of cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden, was supposed to serve 57 war-injured veterans and their families. The extension of the season will bring that number to 89, Travis Mills said.
He said he created the retreat, which hosts families free of charge, because it’s important for veterans with war injuries to continue to do things with their families and not let themselves be sidelined by a disability. He also said spending time together helps to heal emotional wounds.
Eleven military caregivers just wrapped up a session this week. That’ll be followed up with 16 veteran couples and families at the camp over the next two weeks. The season, which started in June, will wrap up in December with veterans and their families from hurricane-damaged Houston and Florida.
“We had so much success that we have decided to continue forward with welcoming four more weeks of veteran families,” Mills said.
First-time campers described being able to connect with their families and others through activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, tubing and archery.
Just as important was the time they spent around fire pits swapping stories and sharing experiences with the only others who truly understand, they said.
“Getting to know others who are in a very similar position gives you more insight in how to handle your own challenges,” wrote former Marine Lance Cpl. Kendall Bane, of Huntsville, Alabama. “These connections are what get me through rough days.”
It’s been a busy summer for Mills. In addition to launching the retreat, he became a father for a second time, welcoming a son, Dax, into the world. He’s also been busy with a business partner, running a dock and motel on Cobbossee Lake in East Winthrop.