Over the years, I have been blessed to work with many different not-for-profit and charitable organizations throughout our community on both a professional and volunteer basis. Each of these organizations, while different in size and focus, all share important missions, all have made a positive impact and all have provided an opportunity to give back.
However, as I watched Gulf War veteran, U.S. Army Sgt. (Ret.) Kenny Hawthorne pull out of the driveway at the end of a recent visit to Patriot Point (www.patriotpoint.org) and head home, I realized that there is something extra special about working with an organization that is dedicated to giving back to those men and women who have worn the uniform, especially those who are suffering as a result of their service.
Since its inception, I, along with many of my Cornerstone Government Affairs colleagues, have had the honor of working with Patriot Point to raise awareness, develop partnerships and identify funding support. Founded in 2016, Patriot Point is a 290-acre retreat for wounded, ill and injured service members, their families and caregivers. Situated on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, along 2.3 miles of shoreline, Patriot Point provides a relaxing and safe environment to enjoy outdoor recreational activities, peace and tranquility. At Patriot Point, our nation’s warriors are able to reconnect with their families and their caregivers, decompress after a deployment or just take time to rejuvenate and recover.
Hawthorne, who served in the U.S. Army, is 100 percent disabled. He recently visited Patriot Point with his family, where they enjoyed skeet shooting, fishing and most importantly time together away from the difficulties and stresses of daily life.
“We had the time of our lives,” he said. “Patriot Point is the best. It helped me with my war-related PTSD, as I was able to relax and focus on fishing and shooting.”
Whether it is traversing Parsons Creek or Slaughter’s Creek on a Jon Boat or the 21-foot Excellence II or taking a spot in the five-stand shooting area, Patriot Point guests are able to enjoy an array of outdoor activities. They also enjoy watersports such as kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding as well as 3-D archery, crabbing and hunting. Recent retreats have also included art and cooking classes, beachside yoga, family activities and team building exercises.
As we continue to raise awareness and promote the work of Patriot Point, we will be holding an Open House on Saturday, Sept. 22, beginning at 11 a.m. Open to the public, we hope this provides a fun and enjoyable way to see all that Patriot Point has to offer.
Since purchasing the property two years ago, with the help of partners, volunteers and financial supporters, a dedicated team has been working to create a first-class destination that our service members and veterans deserve. This team has renovated the guest house, built a new barn with a caretaker’s residence and fitness center as well as a welcome center. Patriot Point has improved accessibility for guests and added new outdoor living spaces, including a patio, and an under-construction outdoor kitchen. Many amenities and other essentials have also been added and/or donated.
Going forward, there will be a focus on renovations to the Main House that was built in 1925 and improvements to the property such as shoreline and wetlands conservation as well as expanded programs and activities for our service members and their families.
Working with nonprofit partners, including the Yellow Ribbon Fund, USO-Metro, Military Warrior Support Foundation, Operation Second Chance, Warrior Events, Freedom Hunters and other military support organizations, Patriot Point hosted 322 guests over 667 use days in 2017 and those numbers will increase significantly in 2018. Some guests come for the day, while others stay for multiple days. Regardless of the length of a visit, the messages left in the guest book are consistent: Thank you, they write, and they hope to come back soon.
“Thank you all so much for your hospitality,” wrote Joe, Tammy, Nick and Braeden, who were guests of Warrior Events during a recent visit. “My family rarely gets the opportunity to have fun, relax and be a happy family. This weekend was quite the exception. From crabbing to the amazing cookouts and crab feast, and just hanging with other families who ‘get it.’ We can’t thank you enough. Our gratitude in overflowing.”
The gratitude should be all of ours to all of the men and women that have given so much of themselves for our country and to protect our way of life. We hope to ensure that Patriot Point continues to grow and expand and can provide a meaningful impact for years to come and make a positive difference in the lives of our service members and veterans.