WATERVILLE – Honoring veterans and helping them adjust to home life after war will be the focus of a benefit event Saturday.

The dinner-and-auction benefit will enable about 100 veterans and their families to attend a four-day retreat in May at Camp Kennebec, A Veterans & Family Camp in Belgrade.

The retreat, called House in the Woods, is a program that honors veterans and their families and helps them heal, said Joel Lavenson, a veterans therapist and owner of Maine Golf and Tennis Academy, the retreat site.

“It’s all in the name of healing wounds and giving back,” Lavenson, a veteran himself, said Wednesday.

Lavenson and Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, also a veteran, teamed up to coordinate the auction, which will be open to the public.

Auction items include dinner with Gov. Paul LePage and his wife, Ann, at the Blaine House, and $29,000 worth of scholarships to the golf and tennis academy.

Many businesses and individuals have donated goods and services, including a professional bass fishing trip, one-week vacations at Maine campgrounds, and a Downeast Energy gift card worth nearly $400.

Lavenson, who has worked as a veterans counselor for 15 years, said re-entering civilian life is often difficult for those who have served in the military. It also is difficult for families.

Veterans often must learn skills to deal with pain, disappointment, anger, fear, rage and depression, he said.

The retreat May 24-27 will include activities that allow for fun, fellowship, bonding, sharing, teaching and mentoring, said Lavenson. The program will include a lobster dinner, a ropes course, archery, camping and waterfront activities.

The retreat is modeled after and sponsored by House in the Woods Inc., developed in 2008 by Paul House of Lee, whose son, Sgt. Joel House, was killed in 2007 in Iraq. House and his wife, Dee, will be at Saturday’s event at 5:30 p.m. at the Waterville Elks Lodge, which will include music and ceremonies to honor veterans.

The Belgrade retreat is open to all veterans and their families, Lavenson said.

Lavenson marches in the annual 21-mile Veterans Day Memorial March with Liberty, who organizes the hike from Augusta to Winslow.

Liberty said Wednesday that he attended the House in the Woods retreat in Lee in August, got to know the House family and saw the need to give the retreat much more exposure. The auction, he said, will include $36,000 worth of items.

“The community has really rallied around this event,” he said.

Lavenson said another retreat is planned for next fall at his camp in Belgrade.

“It’s going to be a platform — a template — for how to do this all around the country,” he said.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]


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