Gold Star mother creates sanctuary for active duty, military families, & first responders
MANATEE & SARASOTA COUNTIES - A Gold Star mother launches a non–profit with help from a Venice High School alum, marine vet, now a Sarasota County law enforcement officer. My Warrior's Place is helping helping anyone from veterans to military families to first responders through its various programs and its site in Ruskin serving as a sanctuary safe space.
For some, My Warrior's Place is an escape from the job. For others, it's an escape from the mind. But to all, it's a place built for warriors. It all began with a favorite pastime for Kelly Kowall and her son, SPC Corey Kowall. Kelly said, "He used to call me up all the time, 'Mom, I'm coming home on leave. Line up the boating trips' and I would have a boating trip lined up every day."
The calm of the Little Manatee river combated the chaos Corey experienced in Afghanistan. Kelly said, "Watch the water...watch fish jumping..."
But in 2009, Corey was killed in combat at just 20-years-old, but Kelly said encounters with him didn't end there. She said, "My son actually started coming to me in a dream, wanting me to buy a boat to take out veterans, military service members, and families who had endured the loss of a fallen warrior, and to take them out to his favorite places, where he and I used to go."
Kelly, wasted no time and purchased a boat and a riverfront property off Shell Point Road in Ruskin. "When I say Sanford and Sons Junk Yard looked better than this place, it's definitely an understatement. We spent months just cleaning up the property," she said.
Kelly turned rubble into refuge for anyone from active duty military and veterans to firefighters and law enforcement and called it My Warrior's Place."It becomes what they need it to be. Whether it's just to be able to have a place...they've had a bad day at work or something has triggered their PTSD or their anxiety and they just need a place to come, where they know they're safe," she said.
It can be a long–term stay up to 90 days in a cabin or just a day-trip to kayak. Kelly said her doors are always open to those who serve."They don't need to have a reservation, they can just come. And I've had many of them say, 'What got me through the day was knowing that I could come here," she said.
Kelly has touched the lives of more than 50,000 people. But she says she couldn't have done it alone. She said, "They say, it takes a village to raise a child. It takes several communities to put something like this together."
To learn more about My Warrior's Place click here.