Thompson’s Station Camp Becomes a Refuge for Hurricane Irma Evacuees

Nick and Cristina Williams from West Palm Beach with Erica and Brett Capiau from Fort Lauderdale

Those in the path of Hurricane Irma, who were looking for refuge, found it at Deer Run Retreat located in Thompson’s Station, all for free because of a social media post.

On September 9, Deer Run Retreat posted on their Facebook page, the following from their CEO/President David Gibson.

“If you have friends or family who need temporary emergency housing to escape the hurricane we have some cabins available at Deer Run for the next week or so… We will make these available at no charge to help those in need. As a nonprofit ministry we always appreciate donations, however, nothing is expected. Please call our Guest Services Department at 615-794-2918 to inquire. We are praying for everyone impacted by the storms.”

That post was shared almost one hundred times with six families finding their way to a safe place. One of those who spent time at Deer Run Retreat is Cristina Williams and her husband Nick.

Both Cristina and Nick are longtime Floridian residents and not ones to be swayed easily by an impending hurricane.

“Hurricanes are as common for us as hills are in Tennessee. In the same way, ice can lead to a dangerous situation in Tennessee, the same is true for hurricanes in Florida. However, we have never evacuated the state because of an impending storm. Neither have our parents,” said Cristina.

But with Hurricane Irma they felt things were different. “On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, and seeing the disaster there, we knew Hurricane Irma’s reported 185 mph winds were not something to take lightly–or prepare for with minimal considerations. Nick is a mechanical engineer. He was concerned that even the strictest building codes in Florida are not typically designed to withstand the power of 185 mph winds.”

So the couple headed north and first intended to stay with friends in Mobile, Alabama but as Irma looked to be headed toward Mobile, they continued to travel north without a real plan on where to stay. Then Cristina received a message from her friend Rachel Adkins who recently moved to Franklin. Adkins saw the Deer Run Retreat information posted in a Westhaven neighborhood Facebook group. Cristiana didn’t reach Deer Run Retreat at first try but was able to contact April Kuykendall, Deer Run’s guest services manager.

“April was an angel from Heaven. She treated me as if I were booking a large retreat, not accepting the invitation to stay for free in their lodge. It was like we were sisters,” said Cristina.

They arrived at Deer Run Retreat on Saturday, September 9th and stayed through Friday, September 15th. During that time, the Williams and the other guests were not only given free accommodations but meals were provided.

“On top of the tremendous blessing we received of getting to stay at their lodge at no charge to us, and the way they welcomed us, Deer Run also fed the evacuees breakfast and lunch each day. Some days we received dinner too. As if the accommodations were not already enough, they blessed us with food and put such love into preparing and presenting it all. It looked and tasted like a catered meal. The food services team took time to talk with us. They cared about us,” said Cristina.

The Williams didn’t suffer any damage to their property in Florida but after their stay at Deer Run Retreat, it was starting to feel like home.

Cristina stated,” ….we did not want to leave Deer Run. We love Deer Run and the surrounding areas, especially Franklin. So much so, we are praying about the possibility of relocating there!”

Deer Run Retreat is a non-profit organization located in Thompson’s Station that offers camps, retreats and team building events. It was founded by David and Liz Gibson in 1998, the property has 100 private wooded acres of scenic rolling hills and landscape. Learn more about Deer Run Retreat on their website.