Gala to help new Naperville charity provide veterans 'the care they need'
Moved by the experiences of the veterans she treats in her massage therapy practice, Jordan Holwell compiled a book and started a nonprofit organization.
But when her efforts didn't seem to make a dent in the opioid crisis or veteran suicide, Holwell, of Naperville, said she felt called to do more.
With its first gala Sept. 14, Holwell's nonprofit, Heart of a Veteran NFP, is raising money to open a holistic health center for veterans.
"It's just for veterans to get the care they need through holistic approaches," Holwell said.
Heart of a Veteran for the past year has been connecting veterans with alternatives instead of what Holwell calls the "Western medical treatments" offered through Veterans Affairs hospitals. Options include talk therapy, massage, neurology, chiropractic services, acupuncture, tapping, yoga, meditation or vibrational sound therapy.
"There's all these different modalities that we're trying to give them in place of the normal VA stuff that isn't working," Holwell said.
But the professionals offering these treatments are all in different offices scattered across the Western suburbs.
"Our goal is to have a space of our own so we're housed in one spot," Holwell said.
That's where the fundraiser comes in.
Heart of a Veteran has considered sites in Naperville, Downers Grove, Darien and Woodridge but hasn't yet signed a deal. The Sept. 14 event, which starts at 6 p.m. at Bobak's Signature Events, 6440 Double Eagle Drive in Woodridge, will help with money to secure a location.
The plan would be for each of the professionals who provides free care to spend one day a week in the new space or set up other standard hours so veterans know when they can get help. Caregivers of veterans also are eligible for low-cost care.
"When it can all be in-house, in one place, when those practitioners are spending a little bit of their week in our facility, that is ideal for everyone involved -- for us and for all the veterans," said Don Curby, a Navy veteran, Woodridge VFW Post 1578 member and vice chairman of the Heart of a Veteran Board. "Then they can have much more structure to the whole process."
The process of launching the Heart of a Veteran care network began in 2015 when Holwell prepared to release the book "Heart of a Veteran," in which 10 veterans -- six from the suburbs -- take a chapter to explain their stories of service, struggle and healing.
Holwell released the book in 2016 and used proceeds to benefit the Brothers in Arms Foundation.
But instead of ending her efforts with the book, Holwell said, she continued to offer help because she has seen methods other than medication improve quality of life for veterans with physical problems such as back injuries and mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress.
Curby, who served nine years in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, said he sees the benefits of making healthy changes. As a 50-year-old with multiple sclerosis, Curby said he sees a chiropractor regularly and takes one prescription medication.
"As a society, we should think of adjusting our lifestyle first and then medicine second," he said.
The Heart of a Veteran Gala will feature neuro-functional chiropractor Dr. Joe Baldino speaking about the importance of alternative approaches to wellness, along with Marine veteran and former Naperville mayoral candidate Richard "Rocky" Caylor and Purple Heart recipient Robert Canine.
Army veteran and magician Matt Redlaw of Indiana will serve as the master of ceremonies, and Army veteran Matthew Wheeler, also known as DJ Mastercut, will spin some tunes for dancing.