See How Elizabeth Arden’s Luxury Summer Estate Became A Retreat For ‘Recalibrated’ Veterans

When cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden bought a whole lot of acres in rural Maine for her summer season estate-turned-spa she in all probability didn’t assume it could turn into a haven for veterans with lacking limbs, however that’s precisely what retired Military Employees Sergeant Travis Mills thought when he bought the property in 2015.

Mills, who misplaced all 4 of his limbs as the results of an IED blast whereas on his third tour of Afghanistan in 2012, is certainly one of solely 5 surviving quadruple amputee fight veterans within the U.S. After an intensive rehabilitation journey at Walter Reed Hospital he and his spouse Kelsey began the Travis Mills Basis to assist help returning veterans. What began with $5,000 to supply care packages has grown into an initiative which now encompasses a ‘zero-barrier’ retreat facility the place every week eight households from across the nation come for a full slate of leisure actions, all of that are accessible to individuals with lacking limbs or different disabilities. All bills, together with journey prices, are coated by the Basis to maintain in step with the ‘zero barrier’ mission of the retreat middle.


“We had a triple amputee who was blown up and wiped out fairly dangerous,” mentioned Mills. “He mentioned he couldn’t do archery. We mentioned: we’ll determine it out.

Throughout the course of the veteran’s keep an area non-profit went by means of a number of iterations of designing a means for him to efficiently maintain a bow and arrow, then helped equip him with the identical instruments to maintain practising when he returned residence.

“We went from him saying ‘no I am unable to try this’ to now it’s his favourite factor that he does in his yard,” says Mills. “The sweetness is it is various things that we adapt, that you need to use at residence. If we ever determine one thing out that you realize they cannot get at residence, we discover a solution to get them what we confirmed them to take residence.”


Mills avoids utilizing the time period ‘wounded’ when referring to himself or others who lived by means of related experiences as an alternative preferring the time period ‘recalibrated’.

“I used to be wounded, however I’m not wounded anymore and I don’t like to consider myself that means,” he explains. “I simply have scars. I wish to change the mindset and narrative. Sure it was horrible. However the important thing phrase is was. Transfer ahead. I’m lucky to nonetheless be right here. I’m fortunate to be round.”

Since settling in Maine, Mills has based an area restaurant and assembly middle whereas additionally persevering with to present speeches across the nation about his expertise. He coauthored a memoir about his harm and restoration, “Robust As They Come”, and makes use of his platform to boost cash for the initiatives the Travis Mills Basis delivers. This included turning a virtually 100-year outdated constructing into a contemporary, accessible resort lodge whereas nonetheless sustaining its historic integrity.


Mills had some prior information of what the residing quarters of the refurbished constructing would require after being one the recipients of the absolutely outfitted sensible properties the Gary Sinise Basis donates to veterans, however translating that to a 1929 constructing took two years and an additional fundraising effort to handle the challenges they encountered. Solely a part of the unique constructing had a basis, fabricated from granite slab, and the insulation was nowhere as much as the fashionable requirements wanted in such a northerly local weather.

“They needed to jack the entire increase 15 toes within the air they usually could not go from the ground joists as a result of they have been all rotted out,” mentioned development supervisor Craig Buck. “They put metallic beams by means of the home windows and lifted the constructing from the home windows.”


“We needed to intestine the entire inside after which shim each stud to make it at the least six inches thick to get the right insulation within the wall,” he continues. “We had $1.6 million development mortgage and since we wished to make it a world class facility we went one million {dollars} over finances. We needed to elevate that million after which solely had 4 years to repay the 1.6 million.” Due to donations the Basis was capable of pay it off in two years.

The principle lodge’s interiors now embody areas with large turning radiuses for wheelchairs, doorways with no thresholds, hooked up bogs that each one have urinals (“since that’s simpler for guys with just one arm like me,” says Mills) and central gathering locations so households and their kids can get to know one another.


“Earlier than I do know it, this household and this household are sitting collectively. These children are sitting over right here after which all the children are all collectively. It turns into one tight knit neighborhood as a result of the children see different children which might be going by means of the identical factor with their dad and mom,” says Mills.

As soon as the residential constructing was refurbished, the Basis started planning a Wellness Middle with a full suite of services so they might supply retreats year-round, however they discovered their lesson from the primary expertise and deliberate each element all the way down to the sunshine fixtures earlier than starting the development.


“We mentioned we’ll by no means be in debt so we did not borrow cash,” mentioned Buck. “We did not break floor till we had the cash within the financial institution. It was 100% paid for the day we opened.” The Wellness Middle opened in late 2022 and is now absolutely operational.

Upon arrival every household is assigned a golf cart to allow them to get across the property simply and participate in all of the totally different choices all through the week.

An adaptive ropes course is a part of actions.


One other take a look at the ropes course.

Horseback driving is among the actions for all friends, no matter bodily means.

Kayaking and different water sports activities can be found to all, however constructing the ramp to match the ten foot drop all the way down to the water took some cautious planning.


Wheelchair basketball is a well-liked alternative.

Tubing is an alternative choice. Word the design of the water craft so somebody with lacking limbs (far left) can participate. Within the background is the kayak launch the place recalibrated members can enter a kayak safely earlier than rowing out into open water.


Adaptive video video games have been one of many actions the group found was necessary to deliver to the menu of selections.

An in depth-up demonstrating the necessity for adaptive online game controllers.

Mills hopes to deliver the idea to different elements of the U.S. however plans to maintain the dimensions of every weekly group to roughly the identical quantity since he attributes a part of his psychological energy throughout his personal restoration to the tight knit bonds he shaped with the opposite small group of troopers who recovered alongside him. Mills says he has seen the affect such bonds have on individuals who take part within the retreat, with a number of veterans confiding in him that they had misplaced hope and have been planning on taking their very own life however modified their thoughts after befriending individuals who had lived by means of related circumstances. He additionally recollects the optimistic adjustments households report, with one girl telling him, “that is the primary time I’ve seen my husband act like the person I married. It is a man that I acknowledge.”


“That’s how I measure success,” says Mills. “Individuals appearing like themselves once more.”

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