The Travis Mills Foundation hopes to raise $1.7 million to fund the purchase of the former estate and spa of Elizabeth Arden in Mount Vernon and Rome and to renovate it into a fully accessible retreat for disabled and wounded veterans and their families.

The nonprofit organization, founded by Staff Sgt. Travis Mills in 2013 after he lost both his arms and legs to an improvised explosive device blast a year earlier in Afghanistan, announced the purchase of the Canadian beauty magnate’s former estate Tuesday. The Kennebec Journal first reported the purchase Friday.

The money is needed to repay the commercial loan used to buy the property for $460,000 and to rehabilitate the 17-acre site as the country’s first fully accessible “smart home” retreat dedicated to the needs of wounded veterans, said Christine Toriello, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation. A GoFundMe fundraising web page set up for the project showed the foundation has raised more than $27,000 so far, largely from a $25,000 unnamed offline donation.

Toriello said some portions of the estate are in significant disrepair, and it has to be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Besides those improvements, the foundation plans to install “smart home” technology such as voice-operated lights and automated features to accommodate a variety of disabled veterans, she said.

The initial $1.7 million is needed for the purchase and renovation of the property, but ongoing fundraising will be needed to operate the retreat and to bring veterans and their families there, Toriello said. Her goal is to begin programming at the camp in the summer of 2017.

The primary focus will be serving combat-wounded veterans, like Mills, and their families, but organizers hope the camp will serve other veterans as well, Toriello said. One hope is to work with Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to reunite veterans and their families who met while undergoing treatment and physical therapy, she said.


Veterans probably will be able to apply to spend time at the camp during set times in summer at first, and the foundation would like to fly the veterans and their families to Maine at no charge, Toriello said. There will be a crafts room, massage therapy, boating and other water and adaptive sports, she said.

Toriello said the foundation would like to offer winter programming eventually as well. The foundation still is developing the programs and determining how much running the camp will cost, she said.

Mills, 27, of Manchester, told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that the camp’s goal is to allow veterans to experience outdoor activities with their families and “not think that they have to stay inside.”

Arden, who died in 1966, built a summer house on the property in the 1920s before establishing the Maine Chance Spa. The spa was operated between 1934 and 1970 and once consisted of 1,200 acres.

The property is in both Mount Vernon and Rome on the shore of Long Pond just west of Castle Island in Belgrade. The estate has a main house, stables, groundskeeper’s quarters and chauffeur’s quarters, which are all in Rome. Part of the front lawn and a lakefront parcel across Castle Island Road are in Mount Vernon.

After the spa closed in 1970, the Tufano family bought the property. Stefan Tufano announced last year he was selling it, listing the property for $765,000.


“We really feel like this can be Maine’s gift to the nation,” Toriello said. “She spoiled movie stars and the like, and now we can in turn spoil our heroic veterans and their families.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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