Written by Lia Hobel
“Home Away from Home” greets guests as they arrive in the driveway of a 37-acre getaway at the base of the Bull Run Mountains. The visitors are those who have served our country and have been gifted a private stay with their families at the place known as the Warrior Retreat.
Willing Warriors, the nonprofit behind the Warrior Retreat, provides cost-free stays and programs for recovering soldiers that are injured, disabled, or challenged by invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury. Although acquired in 2013, the Warrior Retreat didn’t open until two years later. After a labor of love, and the help of more than 1,000 individuals and in-kind donations from contractors and building suppliers, a place for warriors to relax away from the medical center environment was born.
Dianne Polk is the director of operations at the Warriors Retreat. She explains that the average hospital stay for the recovering warriors who come to the Retreat is about 300 days. Once physical wounds are cared for, that’s when the internal healing journey begins. “The mission is to rebuild and rebond that family unity,” she says. “When a warrior is injured, they could be in recovery at a hospital for anywhere from three months to three years depending on the severity of their injury. The families are separated and the children don’t get to see their parent and it’s very hard on the family.”
At the Warrior Retreat, the veterans are cared for in several ways. One highlight is a visiting chef night, where guests are offered a hassle-free meal of their choice. Polk said this is very special since “a lot of the warriors can’t go to restaurants,” as the noise or crowd can be too much for them. “We had a family here that had 10 children and they said to be able to sit at a table together and eat a meal with all of [them] in one spot hasn’t happened before,” shares Polk. Additionally, there are over 40 cost-free educational and recreational activities available to veterans. Everything offered is intended to refresh and put their worries at ease.
Aiding in the healing process is a nearby veteran-owned business, Woodhouse Spa in Gainesville. Since opening in 2020, co-owners Walt Kuhn and Colleen Quintana made it a big part of their mission to give back to the community, particularly veterans and active service members. Kuhn was in the Navy for over a decade and has served as a defense contractor. When the team was approached about the opportunity to work with Willing Warriors, it aligned perfectly with their business philosophy. “As a veteran myself, I know that it’s hard to find companies or businesses that support veterans,” shares Kuhn, who admits that he loves hearing the gratitude from the veterans during their visits at the spa.
With many of the veterans who come to Woodhouse Spa suffering from PTSD or something else, the owners of the spa make sure to customize the environment to their needs. Typically, they receive their own private suite with chocolates to enjoy as they browse a list of massages to choose from. “When volunteers from the Willing Warriors Retreat contact me through email, we set something up for them and they just show up and we take care of them and pamper them,” says Quintana. “They get their complimentary services and can stay as long as they like.” Seeing the results from their massage therapy services is the most rewarding part, says Quintana, who credits their talented massage therapists. “We have veterans that have never been able to reach their arms above their head before coming to us. They’re almost in tears because they now have the range of motion of putting their arm above their head that they haven’t had in so many years,” she explains.
The Woodhouse Spa owners are normally present at the spa to make sure not only veterans, but every guest receives a personalized and exceptional service. Guests have time to relax and enjoy snacks and tea with an option for a lavender neck wrap in the lounge. “They’re extremely relaxed,” Kuhn notes, regarding the veterans who’ve visited over the last few years. “We’ve made personal accommodations — for instance if they couldn’t be on their tummy because of injuries that they had. They’re very appreciative of that.”
“The volunteers at the Retreat always give positive feedback,” says Quintana. Sometimes appointments are canceled because the warrior while staying at the Retreat may feel too overwhelmed and can’t leave that day. In that case, the spa owners say they’re “understanding and we just go with the flow to help them however we can.”
In addition to their complimentary services for those who stay at the Retreat, Woodhouse Spa in Gainesville also contributes a raffle prize to the Willing Warriors gala each year. The basket is full of services and products valued over $500, says Quintana.
“It takes a village” may sound cliché, but for the Retreat to operate, it truly does. From volunteer groundskeepers, to the cooks, to the spa services at Woodhouse, every piece contributes to the total package. “Without partnering with the community and the community supporting the warriors this way, it just wouldn’t be [possible],” says Polk. ML
16013 Waterfall Road
Haymarket, Virginia 20169
Woodhouse Spa – Gainesville
8114 Stonewall Shops Square
Gainesville, Virginia 20155
Published in the July 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.