RUSKIN, Fla. — Just off Shell Point Road in Ruskin, right on the Little Manatee River, you find a place with a lot of heart and a lot fight.
"So our goal is to provide a place where they can come that is very tranquil and calming. The use of nature, and everything it has to offer. I mean, we were standing there earlier down by the canoes and kayaks and a couple dolphins popped up. I mean, it's just, it's that kind of thing that makes it really cool," explains Kelly Kowall, founder of My Warrior's Place.
My Warrior's Place is a retreat for veterans, law enforcement, firefighters and all their families as a safe place.
Kelly Kowall created the retreat after her son died in Afghanistan in 2009. She wanted to create more options for loved ones to deal with their emotions.
"I saw how it really devastated his brothers in arms. I also saw how it imploded our family, and realize that more needed to be done to provide a place of understanding, a place where they could come and be with others that understood everything that they've been through what they're going through," says Kowall.
"I mean, the family is dealing with all those things that have come up throughout their time of service. So to be able to provide a place where they can come to whether it's just for a couple hours, to relax, take a breath, at the end of the day, or whether it's actually to come and stay with us for overnight or several weeks," explains Kowall.
Kowall says it's the local community that really stepped up to help make this retreat possible. Through donations and support, My Warrior's Place is a safe place for a lot of first responders and military members.
"This is like a hotel, you look at it in that fashion, that it's transient, it's for vacation, it's for those little blips in the road that come along where maybe your house is being tented for termites, you need to get out for a couple days while that's happening, or maybe you're building a home and your construction delays, mess you up timing getting out of your place and into your new house. So you're stuck in between. So that's where My Warrior's Place comes in, and they'll come and stay here transitioning in or out of MacDill is another reason that they come and stay with us. But mainly it's for the vacation," explains Kowall.
When ABC Action News stopped by we ran into a volunteer, who is active duty from the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Joshua Galindo is in town helping with COVID-19 vaccinations.
Galindo says, "I was just blown away by everything that they're doing here. The whole facility is nice. And it's really great to be able to help them make it a better place. They're doing such a great thing here because not a lot of people get to experience some of the things that we go through as military and police officers and firefighters. So it's great to really have a place where you can kind of come and like unwind, and it's something different, something unique."
Without volunteers and this community, this wonderful resource wouldn't exist.
"If it weren't for people in the community that were willing to step up and help us. I mean, we have no deep pockets, we have no government funding. It's literally the community that has made this possible, through donations financially, but also through donations, products and services. And people like these active-duty soldiers, they're out here just to give a day of service. So it's, it's due to all of that kind of support that this place exists," explains Kowall.
To learn more about the programs they offer, to volunteer or make a donation, click here.