New health and wellness center allows more families to visit retreat at Travis Mills Foundation


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ROME – Just one year after its founding, the Travis Mills Foundation introduced a new health and wellness center for nonprofit retreats.

Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony brought community members dressed to the nines to show off the center and tour the new 9,800-square-foot space, which many called “perfect.”

The $7 million project allows more people to visit the facility each year and is funded entirely by grants, which Mills said “feels amazing.”

“One thing I promise is to distribute every dollar to the maximum extent possible, not to spend it unnecessarily,” he said. “We are very grateful.”

Volunteer Paul Dubay talks about the little gym as he leads a tour before Saturday’s ribbon-cutting for the new health and wellness center at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in Rome. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

Paul Dubai, a retired Air Force veteran and volunteer, said, “When people saw the new facility, they were like, ‘Wow!’ Dubai and his wife have been volunteering with the Travis Mills Foundation for about a year and visited the Health and Wellness Center on Saturday.

Construction on the building began a year ago, on the weekend of 9/11, and was completed in spectacular fashion exactly one year later.

Molly Lovell Keeley, the foundation’s director of communications, said there are some problems with the supply chain, but nothing that makes up for the construction.

In the year Mills, an Army veteran who lost all four legs in a 2012 blast in Afghanistan, started the Travis Mills Foundation in 2013 with his wife, Kelsey, to benefit veterans injured on active duty on 9/11.

The foundation In 2015, he purchased the retreat’s main building to host an all-expenses-paid retreat for veterans. It was a chance for them to relax, meet other families and enjoy the outdoors in Maine.

The retreat officially opened in 2017 and hosts seven to eight families per week, mainly during the summer months where they can be out on the retreat’s ropes course or canoeing down the road in Long Pond.

The new health and wellness center will be unveiled in Rome at a ribbon cutting Saturday next to the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

The Health and Wellness Center is a separate facility from the main building, but connected by underground tunnels.

The new center will allow the retreat to host more families a year, up to 40 weeks a year, so there’s not much to do in the cold Maine winter, Lovell Kiley said.

“We had a tough time in the winter and had some fall classes to do,” Lovell-Keely said, adding that the heated pool is a good substitute in the winter and families can use the kids’ rooms in the basement. Arts and crafts are prepared. Additionally, a new massage area has been created with soundproof walls and room-darkening shades for relaxation.

Interested families fill out retreat applications and indicate a date they can attend. Sometimes, a few families who know each other through the service, or during their rehabilitation, suggest the same dates as a way to meet.

The building is fully equipped but the fitness machines in the center are the “core equipment” that can be found in a typical fitness center. The goal is to help combat-scarred veterans find strategies to adjust to their new tasks and realities when they return home.

“We want them to be healthy beyond their tour and show them how to use the core equipment they see in the gym or in the stores,” Lovell-Key said.

According to a news release, so far the retreat has served 627 veterans, 724 families and 2,087 people from 46 states along with Washington, D.C. and Canada.

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