Illinois veteran shares ‘Dude’s Playground’ to help others with mental health


WATERLOO, Ill.– Disabled military veterans fighting mental battles can find relief at a nature retreat in Waterloo, Il called Dude’s Playground. Guests enjoy a day of fishing, a hot meal, and the company of others looking for relief.

Richard Melching turned his property at 5301 Kaskaskia Rd. in Waterloo, IL into a therapeutic oasis where he hosts occasional retreats for anyone with mental health struggles.

Melching suffers from migraines that can last for weeks.  At one point, he felt the pain was more than he could handle.

“I walked up a flight of stairs, got into my gun cabinet and put a gun in my mouth,“ said Melching.

He sought medical help for his depression.  Melching now hosts occasional retreats for fellow veterans with struggles.

“You hear the waterfall, the birds, the smell of the lake and the peacefulness here,” said disabled veteran Bob Weigand. “It’s just like therapy for me.”

Weigand said his visits to Dude’s Playground clear troubling thoughts in mind following his military service in Vietnam. The name for the retreat came from Melching’s dog.

“Everyone loves Dude,” said Melching.  “He loves to fish.  As soon as someone gets one on the line, he’s right there.

Melching continues to live with his own mental struggles.  He hopes others facing similar challenges realize they can find help.

“I don’t get to the point where I’m too proud to ask for help,” said Melching.  “I’m a proud man, but I know when it’s time.”

Melching has been hosting veterans for several years.  A ramp allows anyone using a wheelchair to easily access a landing area where visitors can fish and enjoy food and drinks.

He is still in the process of trying to build a separate building with bathrooms and is looking for help from anyone wanting to support his efforts.

Anyone interested in learning more about Dude’s Playground can find information on Dude’s Playground’s Facebook page or be emailing Dude’s Playground at

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