'Race For Survivors' at Holbrook Farms: Eagle Scout plans 5K to benefit the families of fallen service members

Combining his passion for the military with his love for running, 16-year-old Will Daggett has organized a 5K Run/Walk to benefit Holbrook Farms Retreat -- an event that will also push him toward his own personal finish line on the long track to ...

Will Daggett, of Boy Scout Troop 656, is organizing a 5K Run/Walk 'Race For Survivors' to raise awareness of Holbrook Farms Retreat, a 47-acre property in rural Detroit Lakes that hosts wellness getaways for the families of fallen service members. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

Combining his passion for the military with his love for running, 16-year-old Will Daggett has organized a 5K Run/Walk to benefit Holbrook Farms Retreat - an event that will also push him toward his own personal finish line on the long track to becoming an Eagle Scout.

A Boy Scout since first grade, Daggett became familiar with Holbrook Farms while doing some volunteer work there with the scouts. And as a member of a military family - his father has been with the U.S. Air Force for 24 years - the retreat's cause is near and dear to his heart.

Holbrook Farms hosts all-expenses-paid wellness retreats for the families of fallen service members. The secluded, bed-and-breakfast style event center is located just south of Detroit Lakes, on Bucks Mill Road.

"I don't exactly know what inspired me," Daggett said of his idea for the 5K. "It's a combination of my military interest, my interest in running, and that I needed to have a (final) project so I could get to the level of Eagle Scout."

The Hawley High School junior runs cross country with the school team. He's also involved in jazz band, speech, debate and plenty of other activities. He wants to try and earn his pilot's license this summer, and has his sights set on getting into the U.S. Air Force Academy after graduating from high school. Becoming an Eagle Scout will boost his chances of being accepted into the prestigious academy.


Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program; only four percent of all scouts earn the rank. It requires the completion of a big final project as well as demonstrated skills and leadership within the scouts and the greater community.

"It's not easy getting this far," said Daggett. "It requires a lot of time."

When the moment came for Daggett to pick his final project to become an Eagle Scout, the idea to do something that would benefit Holbrook Farms just came to him.

"One day he said to me, 'Hey, I have this idea,' and I thought it was a spectacular idea," said Will's mom, Nelaina Daggett. "It matched all his interests, and it benefits a really, really worthy cause."

Free will donations for Holbrook Farms will be accepted at the 5K, but Daggett said the purpose of the event is really just to raise awareness of what Holbrook Farms is, and what it does. An Open House will also be held there the same day as the 5K, so people can stop by, take a tour, talk to board members and some of the survivors, and learn more about the place.

"Fundraising is the secondary goal; it's more about integrating Holbrook Farms into the local community so more people know its name and are more likely to donate and just know it's there," Daggett explained. "I've talked to a lot of people in Detroit Lakes who don't really know what Holbrook Farms is, or what their mission is. So if I can bring that into the forefront of people's minds, that will bring in more donations than I can offer (through a single run/walk event)."

Holbrook Farms Retreat hosts two to three 'Survivors of Heroes' wellness getaways every year for military widows and other family members who have lost loved ones in military service. The retreats offer those survivors a quiet, natural setting and sense of community that can help them in the healing process.

Founded by Micaela and Matt Brancato, who have served together in the Air Force for about 20 years and have lost close friends of their own in the military, Holbrook Farms is a 47-acre event center. It features orchards, gardens, a beach and 8,000-square-feet of living space that sleeps up to 16 people. It can be rented out for family reunions, weddings and other private events, with proceeds from those rentals helping to fund the 'Survivors of Heroes' retreats.


Micaela said the retreat was able to open five years ahead of schedule thanks to generous support from Detroit Lakes and the surrounding communities. Holbrook Farms is now in its sixth season of offering 'Survivors of Heroes' retreats. It currently has a waiting list of more than 80 people.

"Will Daggett has been an absolute driven leader to be able to work with," said Micaela. "It's really fun for us to be able to team up with other organizations in our local community to be able to serve our military widows at the 'Survivors of Heroes' retreats at Holbrook Farms, and he's done just a fantastic job of organizing this project and helping us tell our story and get the word out, so we're super thankful."

Holbrook Farms is located at 51383 Bucks Mill Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501. The 'Race For Survivors' 5K Run/Walk will be held there on Saturday, May 18. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the race starting at 9:30. There is no cost to participate, and water and snacks will be available after the race. The Open House will start at 8 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. For more information, visit or email .

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