Newsletter • Spring 2020

From the Founders 

On behalf of the HFR leadership team, we originally intended to announce our excitement kicking off Season 7, Summer of 2020, at Holbrook Farms Retreat.  However, as we navigate the challenges of a global pandemic, we find it super important to stay connected and share these updates with you.  First, we want all our Survivors, Volunteers, Supporters, and HFR Community to know how much you are loved and appreciated! Our team is standing by ready to support you & your families in any way we can.   With current travel restrictions and public health guidance, the Board of Directors made a very difficult decision to cancel our June wellness retreat at the farm.  In the midst of tough times, we are not slowing the mission to serve our Survivors of Heroes.  Instead, we continue seeking the strength of community and finding new ways to meet together. We are offering all registered June guests to return in Season 8, 2021.  Until then, we’ll offer virtual connections and wellness resources, while seeking new partnerships and expanding our team for future growth.  We’re praying for everyone’s health and safety…looking forward to seeing you virtually AND at the farm soon! 

2020 Retreat Update

Despite all that is happening in the world, we are still passionate about serving the Military Survivor community with wellness retreats.  As of now, we are on track to host our first-ever Siblings Retreat for sisters of fallen military in July.  We are excited to expand into serving this new and unique group.  In August, we have a Survivors of Heroes Retreat scheduled as of now, is still happening.  We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 and travel situation in the coming weeks and months.  Although holding wellness retreats to serve Survivors is always at the forefront of our mind, so is the safety and well-being of everyone involved in our mission.  In addition to our summer retreats, we are excited to welcome another group of alumni back to Holbrook Farms in September.  This will be our third Alumni Retreat, focusing on giving back by working around the property and also hosting an Open House for our local community.  We appreciate everyone’s support and we will keep you updated as our retreat season unfolds.  We hope to be welcoming Survivors and paddle boarding around Holbrook Lake soon.  We are still in need of items to help make the Survivors of Heroes Retreats as comfortable and relaxing as possible.  Please see our Amazon Charity List here for those items.  

Survivor Story

Eliza Hansen is the widow of SFC Andrew S Hansen, MP US Army. Andrew passed away due to lung cancer on November 19, 2014.  Eliza and Andrew met in Kosovo where Eliza is originally from and were married and had two daughters.  These are her words: 

“Andrew was the youngest of 8 children and followed in the footsteps of other men in his family who came before him including his father, brothers, uncles, and more. Andrew loved being in the military and he was a very proud man but modest and with unwavering integrity. He never wanted to draw attention to himself and cherished privacy outside of work.  He was my perfectly imperfect man that I will love, respect and cherish forever. It’s hard seeing the girls grow up, go through milestones in their lives and him missing out on all of it, and us missing out on having him be a part of our unit as we had dreamed. My hopes and dreams and all the plans we so meticulously worked and planned for were shattered the day Andrew died. I was lost, alone, afraid and in anguish. I felt like no one knew or felt how I was feeling. Little did I know there were so many others like us out there, unfortunately. With the help of organizations that help the surviving families I discovered a whole universe of families like ours and other organizations respectively. It was a bittersweet discovery. In the sea of many organizations the one that stuck out was Holbrook Farms Retreat. It was the first time that I felt the focus was on me, as an individual, not as Andrew’s widow solely! Before I went to Holbrook Farms Retreat, I was lost. I had lost my identity, my purpose. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next, who was I, if not Andrew's wife and the girls mom? I was a widow now. Above all I felt guilty for being alive. It was the dark place I was drowning in and wasn’t sure if I was ever going to find my way to the shore. Things changed for me at Holbrook Farms. It was in this magical place that I felt alive for the first time in a long time. HFR had a profound impact on me that summer. It changed my way of thinking and the way I perceived myself.  It was there for the first time after years of grieving and going through the motions that I felt this resonating thought, “I want to be happy again!” It was a very cathartic experience for me, the house, the property, the lake, the other ladies in the retreat, the facilitators, Matt, Micaela, Sarah and all the volunteers. At HFR I felt for the first time that it was about me, my hopes, dream, journey, and my wellbeing. I felt like I was being celebrated. That I mattered! I love this organization. I wish everyone could experience HFR at least once!
Eliza Hansen
Eliza and her daughters

Volunteer Spotlight

A very special part of our wellness retreats are the local volunteers opening their hearts and homes to the guests.  Sharing the traditions of Minnesota Lakes Country, while wrapping their arms around the Survivors is one of the frequently mentioned highlights of the week.  Two households that have been with us all 7 Seasons are the Bentson’s on Lake Maud and Kotte’s on Lake Eunice.  Whether firing up the grill or sharing a traditional Scandinavian meal, this itinerary stop connects the guests with relaxing time in a hammock by the beach, water adventures jet skiing or boating on the lake, and lots of great conversations and fun in the sun.  Without special volunteers like this, the mission to serve Survivors of Heroes at Holbrook Farms Retreat would not be possible.  A very special thank-you to all our volunteers and if you are interested in joining our team, please visit and click on Get Involved.
Mike and Raenelle Bentson
Susan Kotte

Combined Federal Campaign

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is coming! CFC is the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign and is a simple way to support Holbrook Farms Retreat. Your donation through CFC is tax deductible and goes directly towards supporting our Survivors of Heroes Retreat. 

Donating through CFC is quick and easy:
  1. Visit the CFC website at
  2. Click “Find a CFC Approved Charity”
  3. Type 51197 into the charity search bar
  4. Select Holbrook Farms Retreat
  5. Make your pledge by June 30, 2020 and help us provide healing retreats to Military Survivors. 

Ways to Donate

Thank you so much for your help.  We could not do this without you. 
  • Your donation makes Survivors of Heroes Retreats possible. Donate on our website
  • Purchase something off our Amazon Charity List - these items support our Survivor retreats!
  • Wear your support!  Now is your chance to purchase a super soft shirt or sweatshirt for you, a partner, or a friend and have it directly support our Survivors of Heroes Retreats.  All proceeds go to the non-profit so every sale helps.  Purchase shirts click here
  • Talk to your employer about corporate match option.
  • For anyone in the military or employed by the DoD, the Combined Federal Campaign is closing soon!  Please consider choosing us as a beneficiary.  Holbrook Farms Retreat’s organization code is 51197; no monthly allotment is too small!
  • Follow us on social media and share about HFR’s mission Facebook and Instagram.
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Interested in becoming a larger part of HFR?  Have questions? Do you know a Survivor interested in attending?  Please reach out - we’d love to hear from you.

Holbrook Farms Retreat is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit so all donations are tax-deductible.  All individual donations go 100% towards supporting a Survivor at a retreat.  All income from VRBO goes towards property maintenance and improvements to enhance the retreat experience for our guests who attend Survivors of Heroes Retreats.  Please contact us if you’d like more info on our financials!
Copyright © 2020 Holbrook Farms Retreat, All rights reserved.

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