Mind and Body

Wounded Warriors to Root Out Injuries at New Nature Therapy Retreat

  • The cabins at the retreat center can hold up to 20 people for an overnight stay. The wheel chair accessible buildings will be LEED sustainable.

    The cabins at the retreat center can hold up to 20 people for an overnight stay. The wheel chair accessible buildings will be LEED sustainable.  (Crockett Timber Homes and Starkey Construction )

  • Boulder Crest Retreat

     (Boulder Crest Retreat )

Disabled servicemen and women will soon have a new eco-friendly rehabilitation retreat to help root out their physical and emotional wounds.

Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors will be a non-profit retreat featuring nature-focused therapeutic techniques to give America’s men and women in uniform suffering from injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder a calming, re-energizing place to visit for free.

“[It] will put people in a better place – physically better and mentally better — that won’t require you to take a handful of pills every couple of hours to make you feel better,” said Ken Falke, chairman and founder of Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors.

The retreat, to be located 60 miles outside of Washington, D.C. in Bluemont, Va., will primarily serve outpatients from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Bethesda Naval Hospital — many of whom require months, even years of medical procedures and check-ups.

The retreat will also offer stays to families of wounded service members and veterans.

Falke, a retired U.S. Navy explosive ordinance disposal technician, told FoxNews.com that the average limb amputee returns to the hospital for treatment for up to 20 months.

He says the stress from a chaotic hospital environment takes a toll on the healing process. Boulder Crest will give wounded warriors a place to go to escape that stress.

It will offer therapeutic exercises, including horticultural therapy, where visitors can dig the earth in a walled garden modeled after a similar one at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

“It’s just amazing to watch people when you get them out of the hospital and into a more fresh-air, open-air setting,” said Falke.

Barbara Kreski, director of horticultural therapy at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said it’s pertinent for wounded soldiers to escape the stressful environment of a hospital.

Gardening will “provide people with physical and psychological well-being,” she said. “It enables people who are struggling to use their bodies well, to find peace of mind and relaxation, to return to a hobby,” Kreski added.

Clinical horticultural therapist Johanna Leos from the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Md. works with veterans on gardening and green house projects daily.

“[It’s] a place where people can have freedom, choice, and responsibility,” said Leos.

She said when a soldier returns from war, post-traumatic stress disorder could start at anytime, sometimes several years later.

The availability of horticulture can reduce some of the symptoms, which include anxiety and intrusive thoughts, and keep veterans away from substance abuse. It also helps develop communication skills.

“When you work in a garden or greenhouse, you have to be willing to work as a team and understand what the plants are, and communicate what you need,” Leos said.

She also said that self-esteem increases after seeing positive accomplishment – which is what Boulder Crest is trying to grow.

The grounds will include a barn, workshop, and four handicapped-accessible cabins that can house up to 20 guests at a time.

All the buildings will be eco-friendly and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified sustainable. A small staff will operate the center.

Visitors will also get to visit with therapy dogs, hike, and kayak down the Shenandoah River. A special trail for veterans with prosthetic legs will also be constructed.

“A lot of (veterans) want to tell their stories,” said Falke.

So they will offer special events therapeutic writing workshops and art classes.

To brand Boulder Crest, Falke said they hope to produce jars of salsa made from tomatoes grown on the property and sell them at nearby farmers’ markets. 

They will also invite at-risk youth in Washington, D.C. to visit the retreat, and offer a mentorship program for young adults considering a career in the military.

Falke is the founder and chairman of the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation, which provides financial resources for injured soldiers and their families.

He and his wife Julia have donated $1 million to build Boulder Crest and are in the process of giving 37 acres of their property to accommodate the retreat.

But it's not all coming up roses just yet. The Falke’s still have to raise an an additional $10 million to fund the project in order to finish it by late-winter 2013.

Falke told FoxNews.com they feel blessed to be in a position to help wounded warriors.

“A two or seven day retreat might not solve all of their issues, but we feel strongly it will provide them a peaceful place to reconnect and recover as they make the plans for the next phase of their lives."

Patrick Manning is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here.