Boulder Crest Retreat – a peaceful place for wounded warriors and their families.
Over the last year, the sounds of hammers and saws have echoed in the hills around Bluemont, an unincorporated hamlet at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Loudoun County, Virginia. This construction isn’t part of Northern Virginia’s sprawl, however. When the work is done, this scenic spot will be a peaceful place again—a place of beauty and serenity where America’s wounded warriors and their families can rest and recuperate. Four beautiful cabins and a lodge for community activities are nestled in a verdant landscape, surrounded by a bird sanctuary, a fishing pond, an archery range, a walled organic Victorian garden, and views of the beautiful Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains.
Named Boulder Crest Retreat (www.bouldercrestretreat.org), the 37-acre country retreat is the dream of Ken Falke, a retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and former bomb disposal expert, who also founded and chairs the EOD Warrior Foundation. HistoryNet wanted to learn more about the project in advance of its grand opening on September 6.
HistoryNet: Would you describe in your own words what the vision is for Boulder Crest Retreat?
Ken Falke: Our vision is to create a sustainable business model for a rural retreat where wounded veterans and their families can find respite, reconnect and recover in a natural, rural environment using healing activities that have been recognized as effective models for improving physical, emotional, financial and spiritual strength and resilience.Our goal is to help support the overall physical and emotional recovery of warriors and their families while they are dealing with tremendous stress and pressures during their long journey of recovery, rehabilitation and as they transition to new phases in their life.
The ADA-accessible (Americans with Disabilities Act) retreat is on 37 acres with ample opportunities to enjoy the natural beautiful resources of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River. Guests can stay from two to fourteen days in our brand new cabins, and there is a 6,000 square foot lodge for guests to meet other families as well as being a place to host programs, courses and events.
The retreat provides the opportunities for our guests to participate in recreational and therapeutic activities that include hiking, fishing, archery, yoga and meditation. We will also offer courses for employment and financial management. Guests can choose which activities they want to participate in during their stay, so they can do as little or as much as they want and what is best suited for them.
HN: What are the requirements and the cost for someone to be accepted at the facility?
KF: The retreat welcomes wounded, active-duty military members and veterans, their immediate family and caretakers, and Gold Star Family members. Priority will be given to warriors who are currently in outpatient care and rehabilitation. Warriors and families who are interested in staying at the retreat can fill out an online application.
The retreat’s cabins, which are available for overnight stays of between two and 14-days, and our onsite activities are provided free of charge to our guests. Guests are responsible for their own food and any fees that may be charged for off-site activities.
HN: You are the founder and chairman of the board of directors; you donated 37 acres of your property for Boulder Crest Retreat. What prompted you to start this project?
KF: My wife Julia and I have been visiting wounded EOD warriors and their families in hospitals since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. In 2007, we formed the EOD Warrior Foundation to provide financial assistance and a network of resources and emotional support for our EOD warriors and their families during this very stressful and difficult time in their lives.
We started inviting these warriors and their families to stay at our home for a much-needed break from the clinical settings and routines to enjoy the quiet and beautiful country setting and just relax.After having many families stay with us, we saw how important it was for them to have this time to de-stress and enjoy time together. So Julia and I decided to donate 37 acres of land to build the retreat to create a place specifically designed and built where wounded warriors and their families from all services could stay for free. In 2011 we formed the retreat foundation and started construction in May 2012.
HN: How is Boulder Crest Retreat being funded?
KF: The retreat is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and we have received funding through grants, financial and in-kind contributions from local and national corporations, nonprofit organizations, individual citizens, and numerous fundraising events. We have a capital campaign underway to raise $10 million and to date, we have raised about $6 million.
We are extremely grateful and are very blessed by the generosity and support of so many in our communities around the country who have donated their time and resources to make this retreat a reality. The in-kind donations of building materials and the work of hundreds of volunteers significantly cut down our construction costs and expenses. (Click here to see a list of Boulder Crest Retreat’s partners.)
HN: Your grand opening is scheduled for September 6 of this year. What are your plans for that event?
KF: We are hosting an open house at the retreat from 1 to 9 p.m., and we are welcoming everyone to come by and see the retreat. The event is family-friendly and free and activities will include sporting and animal demonstrations, arts and crafts projects, live music performances, cabin tours and BBQ from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!
HN: We’ve read that you have already had a “soft opening,” accepting a few wounded warriors and their families for weekend stays, in order to get feedback and suggestions for improvement before the official opening. How has that gone? What’s some of the feedback you’ve received?
KF: We are very pleased that the initial “trial-run” family visits have gone very well. Having them stay in the cabins allowed our guests to point out some minor fixes needed in the cabins and other small details. Their visits were so positive we’ve already received requests for repeat stays.
HN: Thanks for taking time to tell us about Boulder Crest Retreat. Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?
KF: We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of so many people who are committed to supporting our military families, both now and for years to come. With the war in Afghanistan ending, I have major concerns about the ongoing and long-term care and support our veterans and their families will need.
Many of our wounded military and veterans have sustained physical injuries and the invisible wounds of war that will require a lifetime of care. It is vital that Americans remain committed to supporting our veterans—to answer the call to give back and support those who have served and sacrificed so much.
Boulder Crest Retreat started as a dream and became a reality because of the many countless acts of generosity and support from our communities. Whenever we have requested assistance, organizations and individuals have responded.
Most recently, when we needed help for final land-clearing, Team Rubicon, the first-responder veterans service organization, answered the call with a team of veterans and volunteers for a whole weekend. When the Berryville VFW heard they were coming, they volunteered to cook breakfast for them all. This is just one example of veterans, volunteers and others coming together to give back. Together, we can help heal our heroes, one warrior and family at a time.