For eight weeks this summer, wounded veterans and their families will return to the Travis Mills Foundation’s retreat on the edge of Long Pond in Rome.

With the approval of local and state health agencies Friday, the foundation will welcome back its family retreats for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have adapted to the current restrictions and we were able to provide,” said Kelly Roseberry, program director for the Travis Mills Foundation. “Despite the pandemic, there are certainly things that can be done to provide for our veterans and our families.

“We are beyond thrilled at the thought of bringing them back this summer.”

Veteran Travis Mills Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald file

The foundation pivoted in response to the current pandemic to provide virtual activities and programming to their veterans and families to meet their new needs. The foundation served an all-time high of 201 families in 2020, despite the pandemic — an increase of nearly 40% from the previous year. In 2021, the foundation expects to serve more than 260 veteran families.

The foundation was able to keep its Warrior Path running, an in-person program for 6-8 veterans at a time, since its launch in June 2020. The weeklong program occurs once a month with all coronavirus safety measures required.

The family program is expected to be smaller this summer to maintain pandemic protocols, but approximately eight families per week will come to central Maine for a retreat.

Opened in the summer of 2017, the Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat welcomes groups of wounded veterans and their families for free, weeklong stays for 11 weeks out of the year. The 1,000-acre retreat offers a handicap accessible lodge, lake access, kayaks, bicycles, paddle boards, a movie theater and more.

Mills, a Michigan native, lost all four of his limbs after surviving a 2012 explosion in Afghanistan. He started his foundation to raise money for wounded veterans in 2013. He lives in the Augusta area where his wife, Kelsey, is from.

Last winter’s in-person programming went smoothly through the start of 2020 because it ended March 8, days before the pandemic took hold in Maine. The foundation initially planned a two-week pause and looked forward to hosting family retreats beginning Memorial Day weekend, but those 11 weeks did not happen due to the pandemic.

The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat off Pond Road in Rome is seen March 5. As pandemic restrictions are eased, the organization has announced it will resume in-person retreats this summer. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Instead, the foundation enrolled families in the Re-calibrated Program. The approximately 80 families who were slated for a retreat received $1,000 worth of items of their choosing from a list provided by the foundation.

“There were lots of things that we were able to provide to promote safe, healthy activities that (veterans) were doing at home and their families that were different from their every day,” Roseberry said.

After providing some socially distanced and COVID-19 safe caregiver retreats at the retreat in the fall, the foundation transitioned to fully virtual retreats in December. The foundation sent families a box of supplies ahead of time and scheduled three days of virtual activities.

“The idea is that we were meeting the veterans where they had their needs,” Roseberry said.

The foundation also provided virtual programming with adapted workouts, yoga, cooking classes and other activities and resources for alumni of the retreat through a private Facebook page. Even when virtual programming is phased out, the Facebook page will remain.

Regular family programming is expected to resume this summer at the end of June for eight weeks through the middle of August. The summer program normally runs for 12 weeks from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

All activities will be run on-site, mostly outside. Time between programs will increase this coming summer for a full deep cleaning.

“Because the restrictions are being lifted sometime in that end of May timeframe, it gives us the first couple weeks of June to properly and safely do in-person trainings that need to be done for staff and volunteers,” Roseberry said, “and get the retreat ready while people are able to move about a bit more freely.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.