United for Veterans hosts first-ever Winter Family Retreat

Local veterans and their family members enjoyed a winter weekend at Grand Ely Lodge full of outdoor fun, meaningful conversation, and creating new connections at United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN)’s first-ever United for Veterans Winter Family Retreat. More than 75 attendees enjoyed snowshoeing, ice fishing, pallet painting, and group team building challenges.

Speaker Kurt Roettjer, a member of 23rd Veteran, hosted an impactful talk discussing the realities of military service. Struggling with PTSD, depression, and a sense of purpose are all extremely common for veterans, and many resources are available for help not only for current and retired service members but also their families, he said. He emphasized that mental health impacts everyone differently, and a variety of services and treatments are available, encouraging veterans in attendance to explore different options as not everyone responds the same way.

Dave and Heather Hicks, operators of the non-profit organization Cast Outdoor Adventures Inc. which facilitates leadership and skills development, led a sled dog demonstration. As a military veteran, Hicks talked about his experience, love for the outdoors, and how varying levels of skills and disabilities can still succeed in the wilderness – and in life.

The retreat was organized by UWNEMN with guidance from its United for Veterans committee, comprised of local veterans.

“It’s always important in our United for Veterans work that we not only host activities that are fun for local veterans and their families but that they are particularly meaningful to veterans and encourage relationship building,” said UWNEMN Community Impact Coordinator Michelle Lampton.

Veterans in attendance said UWNEMN’s United for Veterans Winter Family Retreat accomplished just that.

“I enjoyed the weekend and connecting with other vets,” said one veteran in a retreat survey. “Feels like I have known some for years even though we just met."

In addition to the family retreat, UWNEMN will host four quarterly United for Veterans Veterans Connection events this year to help facilitate relationships with local veterans and servicemembers. The next event takes place June 10th at the Hibbing Raceway where veterans get free admission, a meal coupon, and raffle entries. RSVP is required.

Learn more about UWNEMN’s the United for Veterans program