DANBURY, Wis. (WCCO) — The weekend storms have devastated a local retreat for parents and families who are facing serious illness or the death of a child. Officials say Friday’s storm wiped out most of the 80 acres of Faith’s Lodge, leaving only the retreat’s building standing.

“It was like a shelf, the wind, everybody went for cover. I crawled in here the first day to get to the building. Once I got up here, I just couldn’t believe it. It was really emotional and it’s hard to look at,” said Faith’s Lodge Manager of Operations Evelyn Nyberg. “So sad, just the families I had to call and tell them not to come. We had people from Ohio and Virginia supposed to be here today. We are going to need a lot of help.”

Faith’s Lodge provides families a place to stay, reflect and heal while a loved one is facing serious illness or in the recent events of the loss of a child.

“It is like a sacred ground, that is what this place is, sacred ground,” said Ben Wheeler, who first came to Faith’s Lodge in October of 2009, after his son River died from SIDS at just six days old.

At the time, Wheeler and his wife painted a heart shaped rock with River’s name on it, and placed it in a tree. Tuesday, among all the wreckage, he found his son’s rock among the fallen trees.

“It’s a little piece there is hope there will be this again. We know all our kids are here. We knew right here when I walked up and heard the windchime. I knew there was still hope here,” said Wheeler.

In front of the lodge, a windchime still rings out. While the forest fell, the chimes never moved from their place on a splintered tree.

“Faith’s Lodge is a place where hope grows and it’ll be OK,” said Nyberg.

The lodge will be shut down for the month of July. The staff is asking for donations to help with the cleanup, donations of trees, and say volunteers may be needed. To learn more about Faith’s Lodge or to donate to the cause, click here.

Comments (7)
  1. KM says:

    Perhaps if you had ever been there you would understand what a loss this is to families who have lost a child. I dont wish that loss on anyone, but those of us who have been there, understand what a sacred place it is and what a loss the devastation is (even if its just trees)

    1. Beer Guzzling Redneck says:

      I’m sorry, I wasn’t implying it wasn’t a devastating storm or that there wasn’t other damage. I was literally asking what else was destroyed, if the only building is standing. In no way was I making a judgmental comment. Reporting my initial comment was unwarranted and unnecessary.

  2. Deanna says:

    The grounds of Faith’s Lodge is changed by this storm. Going to this retreat allowed families to grieve and allowed them to do things to process the loss of a child. Birdhouses, painting rocks to place by Sophia’s Bridge (also known as the Bridge of Hope), and walking through the Inspiration Trail remembering our children are the most healing parts of the retreat. This is what was destroyed, these grounds, these trees that covered what is considered a “safe place” to grieve and heal.

    1. Beer Guzzling Redneck says:

      @Deanna – Thank you for your clarification. I, myself, am an outdoorsman and love the woods, the solitude of nature, and can appreciate all of the trails, bridges, and sentimental places they provided. Thanks again.

      1. Deanna says:

        You’re welcome! I think it is hard to tell exactly what the damage is from the outside perspective. Thank you for your concern for the land!

  3. Todd Gabrielson says:

    I wished we had gone to Faith Lodge when our daughter Maria Elizabeth passed away suddenly in June 2007 from prescribed narcotic pain medication following her surgery which she was unable to metabolize at a fast enough. Faith Lodge has helped many families to heal from the very real pain of losing a child. I believe we ought to set up a foundation to rebuild this Faith Lodge to help future families to heal from this pain, As families read this article they will be bombarded by emotional triggers of their own loss. As for our pain I was able to go to an all day retreat through St. Paul children’s for fathers who grieve. If you know some one who has very recently loss a child please pick up the phone and call them. They need you to surround them with love and hugs to help them get through this season of grief.

  4. Jan Thoms says:

    Faith’s Lodge has a special place in my heart. We were fortunate to be able to stay there this past winter, and it truly helped us work through losing our son, who was born prematurely and passed away in 2008. There really aren’t words to fully convey what a special and wonderful blessing Faith’s Lodge is. From watching the video, it’s easy to think that it was “just trees” that were destroyed- however it truly is so much more. The only fitting word really is “sacred”. From the moment you drive up to the property, there is such peace and tranquility that surround you. Many of the things that we did took place in those woods- the Heart Stone ceremony, walks through the birch trees, snowshoeing. It was in these woods that my (now-ex) husband and I were finally able to reconnect and start to grieve the loss of our son from over two years earlier. Seeing the Bridge of Hope in ruins ripped at my heart and I can only hope that my son’s heart stone is found underneath the debris.

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