As his deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines came to a close in 2011, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior kinesiology major Richard Roehrick, of Winneconne, returned to Wisconsin, but struggled adjusting to civilian life.
Although doctors prescribed medications to help, Roehrick charted his own course by turning to physical fitness and made it his mission to help other veterans.
Roehrick, who had lost friends to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), believed there were better, more comprehensive ways to treat the disorder. That led him to develop Rebuild, a business concept that offers veterans alternative, holistic treatment for PTSD through physical fitness, nutritional guidance, physical therapy and counseling.
According to a 2012 VA report, more than 8,000 veterans—about 22 each day—commit suicide each year.
“As a society, we’re failing to address the problem. Things need to change with our network of health for providing care for veterans with PTSD,” Roehrick said. “My plan for Rebuild is to offer a fitness facility for veterans with referrals and serve as an organization to benefit the VA system.”
Roehrick’s concept took first place in the recent Business Model Contest, securing $15,000 in funding for his business and a spot in the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) 12-week accelerator program. The accelerator program provides $5,000 in funds, mentors, a startup curriculum and 1-on-1 consulting.
Colleen Merrill, executive director of Alta Resources CEI, is one of Roehrick’s clients through the Kinesiology 407 Clinical Experience in Exercise and Fitness class. The class pairs UW Oshkosh students with faculty and staff for personal training sessions through the Healthy Titans program.
“It was my first year in the Healthy Titans program, and when I met Rich he asked me what my fitness goals were, so then I asked him what his goals were,” Merrill said. “When he told me about his passion for helping veterans through physical fitness, I encouraged him to participate in the Elevator Pitch contest in October. He did and he won.”
Meeting with Merrill each week for personal training sessions gave Roehrick the confidence to participate in the pitch contest in October and the business model presentation later in November. Roehrick said he never had a client ask him what his goals were.
“Rich has such a positive attitude and is committed to making an impact on PTSD care for veterans,” Merrill said. “He’s doing his research, talking to veterans, building a customer base and is willing to ask for help—which is setting him up for success with Rebuild.”
Roehrick, who balances being a full-time kinesiology student and working full-time as head personal trainer at Valley Athletics in Neenah, said the support he received from his family and friends helped motivate him to present his business idea.
“I didn’t tell anyone except my wife and mom that I was pitching my idea,” Roehrick said. “Without me knowing it, my mom contacted my friends and personal training clients, who surprised me and showed up for my presentation.”
In addition to support from his family and friends, Roehrick’s education through the Kinesiology and Athletic Training Department at UWO is giving him a strong foundation for success.
“From general physiology concepts to fitness assessment techniques, I know that even after I graduate I can call on the kinesiology faculty and staff anytime I have questions,” Roehrick said. “For me, the facilities management class really helped me understand how to budget and build a floor plan for a fitness facility.”
The support and community for veterans at UW Oshkosh has also made an impact on Roehrick. “Having a Veterans Resource Center staffed by veterans really helped me when going through the benefits processes,” Roehrick said. “We also have opportunities to get involved and give back to other veterans in the Oshkosh community.”
Through the accelerator program, Roehrick will be finalizing his business plan by looking at building costs and equipment plans and meeting with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“I’m not doing this for myself or for the money—I’m doing this for my brothers,” Roehrick said referring to his fellow servicemen and women. “We need to rebuild our nation’s heroes one life at a time.”
Roehrick plans to open his first Rebuild in Oshkosh and add facilities near military bases. Roehrick is looking for investors and mentors to assist with Rebuild and can be contacted at email@example.com.