My Warrior’s Place donation

Published on: January 9, 2019

Valencia Lakes Sports Charity fundraiser benefits

My Warrior’s Place


Valencia Lakes Sports Charity representatives were excited about their gift to My Warrior’s Place. From left: Rich Stern, Pat Massri, Joel Port, Mike Kates, Kelly Kowall (MWP president), Stu Lipkin, John Donnery, Carole Heywood, Kathy Santackas and Maureen Meltzer.

Three Valencia Lakes sports groups have combined forces to raise funds for a local charity. The recipient, My Warrior’s Place (MWP), is a retreat center in Ruskin dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of veterans, military service members, first responders and Blue, Silver and Gold Star families.

Mike Kates, chairman of the Valencia Lakes Sports Charity Dinner Dance Committee, said their committee was pleased with the event’s success; it raised $15,300. They presented the check to MWP President Kelly Kowall In December.  “We looked at a lot of local charities before deciding on My Warrior’s Place,” said Kates. “This was the second year for the charity. Last year we gave $12,150 to Mary Martha House.” The Sports Charity is comprised of three Valencia Lakes sports groups — pickleball, softball and tennis—which, combined, have 650 members. 

Valencia Lakes is a gated, 55-plus active adult living community on U.S. 301 in Wimauma. Since it was started in 2007, it has continued to grow and now has about 1,600 homes and 3,000 residents. Valencia del Sol, also a 55-plus gated neighborhood, is now being developed next to Valencia Lakes.     

Kowall said that most of the donation will be used for finishing the new “house” being built on the property. “The building is very close to completion,” she said. That’s exciting for the volunteer staff because they will be able to hold sessions there for their support programs.  It is being built to also accommodate visiting individuals who need more space than provided in the smaller units.  Barring any unforeseen expenses, Kowall said, with this latest gift, they have the needed funds and are just waiting on county action to determine what they need for the new sewer system. 

The safe haven that My Warrior’s Place offers has proven to play an important role in the healing process of many individuals who visit there. Kowall cited an example of an effort right now to help a veteran. “This veteran recently called from Alaska to reserve a unit because he felt he needed support after the recent death of his service dog. He had stayed with us four years ago and felt we could help him in coping with this loss. During his time here, we are also helping him contact service dog programs about a new dog.”

My Warrior’s Place—a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization—is run entirely by volunteers and funded with donations. According to MWP’s website, it was founded by Kowall “To honor my son and the Army values that he stood for, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I was compelled to find a way to assist those who where mentally and emotionally affected by some of the complex grief issues that arise when the one who died served in the military. Thus, My Warrior’s Place, Inc. … was founded in his memory.” She is a Gold Star mother herself; her son Corey died at age 20 in Afghanistan in 2009. The staff encourages visitors to come tour the property. It is located in Ruskin at 101 22nd St. N.W. just off Shell Point Road. For more information, visit, or call 813-321-0880.