DAYTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - On a sprawling estate on the northwest side of the Twin Cities, an innovative foundation is helping veterans transition from their military service. One of them is Randy Tesdahl.
"I joined the Marine Corps in 1977," said Tesdahl. He spent the next 22 years in the Corps, mostly as a supply clerk. Afterwards he worked for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs advocating for veterans. But what he sees at the Magnus Veterans Foundation is unique.
"It’s given me a place where I can come in and work out without a big commitment," said Tesdahl.
Magnus was the brainchild of Dr. Shawn Alderman, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Army Special Operations. While serving as the group’s surgeon, Alderman helped start what was called the Preservation of Force and Family Program. Its purpose was to help special operations soldiers and their families with the medical and mental health needs to keep them in their fighting units. When Alderman retired from the Army, he founded Magnus to offer the same core programs for veterans needing to transition to life after the military.
"We want them to be able to come here anytime. They need to come here to relax, enjoy the atmosphere and process through what they are going through," said Magnus Veterans Foundation Executive Director Jay Calhoun.
In addition to providing medical help, Magnus has a psychologist, a full gym, and an estate with a gazebo, duck pond for fishing, and meeting spaces for families.
"And we do this at no cost to the members," emphasized Calhoun.
To become a member, one simply needs to have served in the military or be a spouse of a veteran. There is an application process to verify military status.
"We do a small assessment," explained Calhoun. "Once they have the assessment, they’re in as a member."
It’s part of the reason why Tesdahl was sold on Magnus for himself and fellow veterans. "There’s no membership dues. Just tell me your story about what you did in the military and that’s your membership dues," Tesdahl. "You’ve already paid them."
Kalli Kiefer is also a member. Though not a veteran herself, her husband served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in Iraq.
"It is supplemental services to the VA," explained Keifer. She emphasizes that Magnus doesn’t compete against the VA, but introduces next-level healing on a holistic level. "They realize that the success of the veteran largely depends on the family unit and being able to work through things together."
Calhoun says part of what Magnus does is provide a sense of community.
"When you’re a military veteran, the transition going from being in the active military to being an American civilian is very, very challenging," said Calhoun. "And there’s a lot of ways to help with that, but one of the ways is to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of being a part of something bigger."
The Magnus Veterans Foundation is located on 37 acres of land along Diamond Lake in Dayton, Minnesota. The estate once belonged to Vince Eagan and Suzanne Rawlings, the founders of Sesame Street Live that toured the world. There is still memorabilia from traveling stage production scattered throughout the grounds.
"Just walk around the grounds," implored Tesdahl. "It’s beautiful, and they’ve got fountains and flower gardens, all kinds of stuff."
The Magnus Veterans Foundation survives off of donations. Calhoun says most of their contributions come from a 50 miles radius including VFW and American Legion Posts. One big fundraiser is coming up on Saturday, October 29th from 3-6 p.m. at the Osseo-Maple Grove American Legion Post 172.
"We are attempted to raise $10,000 to support Magnus that day," said Keifer. It is a chili event. So teams are competing in a judging contest for first, second, and third place prizes."
It’s all to raise money to help Magnus serve more veterans.
"It’s just like walking into home," said Tesdahl. "It’s really a different feeling, a different aura when you come out here."