Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Next 18 founder sees growth in mental health nonprofit

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: Next 18 founder sees growth in mental health nonprofit

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GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Every so often, we like to check in with former Everyday Heroes to see what they're up to now. Matt McDonell launched a nonprofit last year called Next 18. It combines golf and mental health techniques to help military veterans and first responders. Since that first camp, things have really taken off.

We first met McDonell last year at the Fire Ridge golf course in Grafton. He was just getting started with Next 18, which he founded. It was his very first camp.

"I live by a lot of the values I was taught in the military. Honor, integrity. I say I'm going to do something, I do it," McDonell told us at the time.

He set out to help military veterans and first responders dealing with mental health issues and PTSD. Now, that's exactly what he's doing,

"I think at 38, I've really found my purpose in life," McDonell said.

Next 18 has hosted six camps in the last year, combining the game of golf with tools to manage mental health challenges. 

"Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, breath work," McDonell said.

Next 18 boasts 60 alumni so far -- from the military, Milwaukee Fire Department and more.

"Wauwatosa, Waukesha PD, Mequon Fire, the National Guard is getting some participants involved, too," McDonnell said, naming a few.

His own experience dealing with PTSD following his military service gave him the inspiration.

"I didn't have the resources. I had no one to talk to," he said. "I did what a lot of men do when they're going through a negative situation, we just stomach it."

Living through that experience made him want to give others the tools he didn't have, and McDonell said the response has been inspiring.

Alumni have called it "priceless" and "invaluable."

Next 18 is growing, too. There are eight camps planned for next year.

"When I get messages now, unprompted from alumni, it really fills my cup," McDonell said.

McDonell also said Next 18 is checking in with alumni bi-monthly to assess the impact the camps are having on participants. McDonell is working to get his masters in social work right now.

For more information on Next 18, just visit www.Next18.org.

And if you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com

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