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Nonprofit plans veterans retreat center in Moshannon

by on July 09, 2020 9:15 AM

MOSHANNON — A nonprofit organization is looking to build a retreat center in Moshannon for veterans, to help reduce veteran suicide through the healing nature and camaraderie developed during outdoor activities such as camping, hunting and fishing.

Pennsylvania Outdoor Veterans Inc. hopes to build a 21,000-square-foot, three-story lodge with 18 rooms on 5,700 acres in Moshannon. The estimated cost of the project is $14 million. Half of the property is in Snow Shoe Township and the other half is in Rush Township.

Pennsylvania Outdoor Veterans Inc. was founded in 2015 by Ryan Bowman, a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He spoke to the commissioners during the public comment period of the board’s July 7 meeting.

His creation of the organization was a response to the tragic number of suicides among combat veterans. According to the nonprofit’s website, every day, more than 22 veterans take their own lives. Bowman said those numbers are rising, along with more and more veterans’ caregivers committing suicide.

“For a lot of these veterans, they just need to get out of their own head.”
Ryan Bowman,
founder of Pennsylvania Outdoor Veterans Inc.

The issue is something that is personal to Bowman, whose family has a long history of military service. He said he knows how returning from war can be a difficult transition for service members and their families.

“Personally, I am no different than the next veteran,” said Bowman. “I’m not immune to the effects of war. Every vet is affected. We all have our struggles.

“For a lot of these veterans, they just need to get out of their own head. This is not a long-term facility where veterans would be there for months on end. This is maybe a weekend or a week during hunting season and fly-fishing facility. This is a short-term, recreational and therapeutic opportunity for them.”

Bowman wears two bracelets that represent Spc. Chad Edmundson and Staff Sgt. Mark Baum, who served with Bowman. Both were killed in Iraq.

“This facility will be named after them, in their memory,” said Bowman.

While he knows that there are many pieces to helping vets struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and brain injuries, he said that a big part of what helped him move forward after returning from combat was the great outdoors.

“It has been documented that reconnecting with nature has a strong healing effect on those that have been traumatized by combat and other life-shattering events. Nature is not just a backdrop for health and healing activities, but rather a vital part of the healing process,” said Bowman.

The facility is to include a dining hall, an outside organic garden and a potential farming aspect. The property includes 12.5 miles of the Moshannon and Black Moshannon creeks for fly-fishing, as well as land for hunting. He said the group is looking at a model that would have an outdoor recreational therapist at the facility.

“Our opportunities are endless with a property this size,” said Bowman. “We are still in our process of due diligence and nothing has been finalized, but we are pretty good on things so far.”

The retreat would be the largest facility of its type in the nation.

The commissioners thanked Bowman for his presentation and said they would be glad to hear more about the project. They plan to set up a future meeting.

“It would really be an honor to have something like this in the county, and it is obviously a dream of yours … something you have been envisioning,” said Commissioner Michael Pipe, the board’s chairman. “One thing we would love to do is learn more.”

Bowman said he believes the organization will be able to get donors to raise enough money to complete the project, but said the group wants to make sure the property suits its needs before going any further.

Those looking to get involved with project can visit the organization’s website at paoutdoorveterans.org.

 



Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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