From Waterfront to Pool, Health & Wellness Center Coordinator Develops Veteran and Family Programming

When the Travis Mills Foundation opened its Health & Wellness Center in 2022, the team knew it would create new possibilities for post-911 recalibrated veterans in their lifelong recovery journeys after becoming injured while serving our country.

The 10,000-square-foot building houses an indoor pool, a large fitness room, small fitness, massage rooms and more. While all features are state-of-the-art, the Center contains mainstream equipment so that recalibrated veterans and their families can learn how to use items while visiting the Retreat and take home with them the skills to maintain healthy lifestyles beyond their visits to the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat.

“After our recalibrated veterans were injured, they rehabbed on ultramodern fitness equipment that they would never see again once their recovery was over,” said Kelly Roseberry, Vice President of Programming at the Travis Mills Foundation. “While it was vital for their recovery at the time, it doesn’t help them now when they go to their local gym, pool or home gym. Our facility is modeled after the amputee clinic at Walter Reed, with many of the same pieces of every day equipment they’ll find at home or in a public gym.”

Through research and Kelly’s firsthand experience as a physical therapist working with injured servicemembers, TMF is developing Health & Wellness Center programming not only for the veterans who visit the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat, but also their families.

It’s the job of TMF Staffer Amanda West, Health & Wellness Center Coordinator, to work with Kelly to develop these programs that are both fun and functional. Amanda refers to her role at the Foundation as “serendipitous.”

“I was a teacher for 10 years in physical education and health,” she said, adding that she also served as recreation director for a small municipality in northern Maine where she grew up near the former Loring Air Force Base.

A Mt. Vernon, Maine, resident, she and her family watched from September 2021 to September 2022 as the Center was built on existing Retreat property, just a few steps away in Rome, Maine. After her children went back to school fulltime – Amanda homeschooled them during COVID – she was in search of a career with purpose.

“I love helping people and being able to give back,” she said, adding that she first secured a job in the housekeeping department at the Veterans Retreat because she wanted to help in any way she could at TMF.

Additionally, Amanda’s grandfather was a tech sergeant in the Air Force during World War II, and so veterans have a special place in her heart.

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Health & Wellness Center

It’s now Amanda’s duty, alongside with Kelly, to develop programming for TMF participants both along the waterfront on beautiful Long Pond in the Belgrade Lakes Region and the Health & Wellness Center.

“This is an amazing opportunity and I’m all in,” Amanda said.

Summer 2023 has been unusually rainy in Maine, but because of the Center, veterans and their families have been able to enjoy programming indoors.

“We have fun games planned for families,” she said, adding that activities depend on the ages, needs and abilities of participants in a particular programming week. “We have so much that we can do with our time here.”

Physical therapy students from Shenandoah University were recently on site for an internship and worked with veteran participants in the pool, while their families were present.

“That was a really cool moment to be able to see,” Amanda said.

What is it like working with children in the pool?

“Organized chaos at times, but it’s so much fun,” Amanda said, laughing, adding that by the end of the week, all the children have formed relationships with one another.

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Planning For The Future

Going forward, Amanda’s mission is to develop fun ways for families to exercise together.

For example, a veteran in a wheelchair can use resistance bands – an activity their family can also take part in. Amanda has also developed programming around drumming equipment, obstacle courses and other yard-style activities – ‘lifetime activities” she calls them; activities they can participate in anytime, anywhere.

Perhaps one of Amanda’s favorite moments since overseeing Center programming is sharing in the experience of recalibrated veteran amputees in the water with their families.

“I love that everyone was able to get in the water with their kiddos and have the time of their lives,” she said. “They were right at home here.”

“This amazing new facility – I call it the ‘Dream Center,’” she added.

Amanda also finds much satisfaction when she assists a single or even double arm amputee into a kayak for the first time; or when she can use a simple piece of equipment such as a pool noodle to assist with a veteran’s water therapy.

“There’s so much you can do in water,” she said. “And between Kelly and I, we can adapt anything.”

“I always refer to water as such a great equalizer because it really levels the playing field,” added Kelly. “It offers benefits of decreasing the effects of gravity, feeling buoyant, decreasing pain and easing the ability to move.”

Additionally, the Center’s large and small fitness rooms are also places where recalibrated veterans can feel comfortable adapting and learning how to workout on mainstream gym equipment.

“It gives them the confidence to go home then and join their local fitness centers or develop a home gym,” Kelly said.

Amanda said when participants first see the Center, they’re surprised by its size and amenities.

“I hope it makes them feel so proud to be able to enjoy it,” Amanda said. “It’s so rewarding to be able to give back to our veterans and their families,” she added.

As for future Center programming, Amanda and Kelly have many ideas, from family fitness classes to water aerobics and specialized classes for participants in our Caregiver Program.

The organization’s Facilities Department has also installed a disc golf set on the Retreat property; Amanda is also working with the department to groom trails throughout the grounds.

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Recalibrate Program

It’s the hope that participants will take advantage of the Foundation’s Recalibrate Program while trying new equipment and workouts. New in 2022, the Recalibrate Program capitalizes on a participant’s motivation after attending the Retreat by providing financial assistance, goal setting, and long-term follow-up.

“The program has provided everything from helping to pave a driveway, providing in-home cleaning services, a computer to help with a home business, an electric bike to help a veteran stay healthy by safely riding to work, and helped with moving expenses for someone that needed a healthier environment,” said Kelly.

Both Kelly and Amanda hope by visiting the Health & Wellness Center, post-911 recalibrated veterans and their families might find some support in their lifelong recovery journeys.

Amanda added:

“It’s my hope that our participants will find something they loved here so much that they go home and decide that having that particular item would be life-changing for them.”

About The Travis Mills Foundation

The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post-9/11 veterans who experienced life-changing injuries while in service to our country. The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat offers our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier-free, all-expenses-paid experience at its world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. It offers various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Foundation also offers Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) for combat veterans and first responders, the nation’s first-of-its-kind program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth. Learn more >>>