Many folks retire and head to the island state of Hawaii, with its beautiful surroundings. But upon retiring from their business, Lillian and Stave Watanabe decided to leave Hawaii in 2020, and they ended up in Italy. No, not that Italy. Rather, Italy, Texas, just down the road from Waxahachie.
There they had the opportunity to buy a 65-acre ranch “surrounded by oak trees, and it reminded them of ‘Kipuka’ [Hawaiian for “a sacred area of land surrounded by lava flows.”]”
While North Texas has plenty of things, it doesn’t have a volcano spewing lava. However, in the midst of the pandemic, the Waranabes saw their ranch to be like an “island surrounded by lava flourishing in the aftermath and considered to be a calm, protected area.”
But in addition to becoming ranchers, Lillian and Steve are diehard supports of the military and first responders. Recognizing that “nearly one million post-9/11 combat veterans are battling debilitating levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental health challenges,” as well as an “alarming increase in the number of service-related suicides,” they wanted to do something about it.
Lillian told VoyageDallas, “We learned that Texas has a large military presence and is home to nearly one-million post-9/11 heroes.”
After careful research, they discovered “the most successful and compelling program to be Boulder Crest Foundation — a program known as Warrior PATHH, standing for “Progressive and Alternative Training for Helping Heroes.”
Convinced of its success in other parts of the country, Lillian and Steve donated 11 acres of their ranch to the creation of Eagle Oak Retreat and established a foundation with a vision to provide “a wellness retreat, providing heroes with programs that focus on post-traumatic growth, nurturing ways to identify copy mechanisms to struggle well and a place to foster community support to help them find a new purpose and thrive in life after service.”
The couple also “personally invested and secured a loan so we could begin the construction and development of the retreat.”
While construction of the retreat has already gotten underway, on Friday, May 20, there will be a groundbreaking with Boulder Crest Institute Co-Founder Josh Goldberg and two veterans who graduated from the Warrior PATHH Program.
According to Josh, “Warrior PATHH is the first ever program designed specifically to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth amongst combat veterans and first responders who are struggling with traumatic stress and enables them to transform that struggle into strength and growth.”
Plans call for the retreat to be fully ADA-accessible with bunk houses, an iron kettle kitchen, a horticulture heroes garden, a peaceful healing garden and a quaint fishpond to be opened in 2023. In addition to offering the Warrior PATHH Program, family retreats will also be available for families of Combat Veterans and First Responders. The families will have the opportunity to stay for two to four nights at no cost to enjoy a “wide range of therapeutic and recreational activities including equine-assisted learning, walking the labyrinth, archery, fishing, playground and enjoying the outdoor sights and sounds of nature.”
If you have nothing better going on, why not hitch up your buggy and head to Italy for the groundbreaking activities that will be taking place from 9 to 11 a.m. on May 20? And who knows? You just might want to join Lillian and Steve in their mission.
* Graphic/photo provided by Eagle Oak Retreat