‘It’s extremely overwhelming’: retreat for first responders suffering from PTSD holds grand opening

After more than a year of fundraising and campaigning, the River Valley Resilience Retreat is officially operational.

The peer support facility held their grand opening on Sunday with a barbeque and tour. Retreat co-founder and firefighter Jeff Reeder said the 25-acre property south of Prince Albert will be a blessing for Saskatchewan first responders struggling with mental health concerns like PTSD.

“It’s huge to be able to have a place (where you’re) surrounded by peers—people who get it (and) have had journeys of healing and recovery,” Reeder said. “To know what to expect when an injury occurs—where to go, how to access resources and what to expect—is huge for somebody, as is just knowing that they don’t have to go through that journey alone.”

The non-profit still has some work to do on the property. The biggest involves renovating the three-bedroom house to include even more bedrooms and living space.

The retreat has already hosted a number of day camps and team building exercises, but Reeder said they’ll need bedrooms for permanent guests as they expand their programming, or serve first responders travelling from outside the Prince Albert area.

The facility can accommodate up to 30 people for single day activities, but any program requiring an overnight stay is limited to six people.

Although they have some work ahead, Reeder said they’re just happy to finally have a place to call home.

“It’s extremely overwhelming,” he said. “It couldn’t be more perfect. It’s exactly what we needed.

“It’s secluded. It’s private. It has all the elements of nature that have healing abilities that people look for, the solitude, water features, the river close by, so anywhere you go on the property, you can find some comfort and a quiet place to reflect.”

Organizers will not publicly disclose the property’s location to help protect the privacy of first responders using the site. Reeder said the isolation is one of the retreat’s biggest benefits, and they’re hoping to keep it that way as much as possible.

Reeder added that sponsors and supporters played a major role in getting the retreat to where it is today. However, the work isn’t done. “We’re always looking for help financially to ongoing costs and to support the programming going forward,” he said. “We just encourage people that if they’re looking for a worthwhile cause to donate to, consider the River Valley Resilience Retreat.”