Often times holidays lose their original meaning. BBQs and sale events have taken over Memorial Day. Labor Day, once a day to celebrate the workforce, is celebrated as the last day of summer. November 11th, however, is different, especially for Mike Schmidt, owner of Old Soul Brewing Company in Fort Myers.
Brewing is like therapy. You don’t have to worry about what else is going on in the world
Three years ago, on Veterans Day, Mr. Schmidt along with his sons, Nicholas and Jacob, and wife Sherri started a brewery off US 41 and Boy Scout Dr. The choice of opening day was no coincidence. Both Mr. Schmidt and his son Nicholas served in the military- father in the Cold War, and son in Afghanistan. However, their experiences couldn’t be more different. When Nicholas returned home from the Middle East, he was carrying extra baggage from the front lines. He suffers from PTSD.
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“Brewing is like therapy. You don’t have to worry about what else is going on in the world,” Mr. Schmidt says of creating beer. But shortly after opening the brewery, Nicholas’ PTSD symptoms worsened and what was once therapy, only added to the pain. “The stress of business sunk him into depression.” Soon, he hit rock bottom and attempted suicide. That’s when Miles of Smiles- an equine therapy for veterans afflicted with PTSD in North Fort Myers- found him. Mr. Schmidt reflected on that moment when we spoke with him on a slow Tuesday afternoon, “Honestly, they saved his life.”
Now, every year, on the anniversary of their opening, Old Soul Brewing Company is sure to give back to the organization that saved his son and countless other locals who risked their lives and sacrificed mentally to protect our country. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefits the Miles of Smiles, which offers its services to veterans for free. “My goal is to raise money for their operational cost,” says Mr. Schmidt, “So they can just work on therapy and get that done.”
The Veterans Day fundraiser and anniversary event will be held at Old Soul Brewing Company (10970 S. Cleveland Ave, Fort Myers) on Saturday, November 11. Doors open at noon. The event features food trucks, bands, a silent auction, and plenty of beer.