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Veteran turns to crowdfunding, Kickstarter to finish Missoula therapy spa

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Matt Gangloff and Savanna Scotson stand in their  new business before construction began. 

By Martin Kidston

The walls are up and the equipment has arrived, but it will take one last financial push before a veteran-owned business opens its doors to the public and offers floating in isolation tanks as a therapy for vets – and a soothing reprieve for others.

Matt Gangloff, a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war and founder of the Enlighten Lab Float Center on Higgins Avenue, plans to open the new spa by February.

To get there, however, he’s looking to raise roughly $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, and another $7,500 in matching donations to offer scholarships to veterans and their spouses. A crowdfunding campaign will take place on Friday at Imagination Brewery at 5 p.m.

“The project has been bigger than we expected, and we’ve come to a point where all the major projects are done,” Gangloff said. “But we have a small gap we’re looking to fill.”

The concept behind the new business is partially rooted in Gangloff’s personal story. He joined the Army at the age of 17, little more than a gung-ho teenager, after his mother signed the enlistment papers.

His first combat tour in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division left him feeling accomplished. His second tour, however, left him feeling disenfranchised and questioning the value of his service in the Middle East.

The PTSD became apparent by the time he left the military. Gangloff suffered from anxiety, depression and insomnia. He gained weight, became an alcoholic and attempted suicide.

“My brother found me in the middle of all that and saved my life,” he said. “I had essentially squandered all the savings I had accumulated through two deployments. All I had to show for that time was a GI bill and a crippling emotional disorder.”

Gangloff discovered floating as a treatment by happenstance. While he’d tried other therapies to soothe his anxieties, few worked. Yet floating in a tank filled with salt water, devoid of external stimuli, proved different.

“All that inner dialogue you have running through your head gets amplified,” he said. “It made me realize that through the simple act of sitting there and listening to that inner dialogue, you can change it. You could think about a particular reaction you would have, and peel back why you’d have that reaction.”

Gangloff hopes to bring that therapy to other veterans by getting his business open, though a final fundraiser will be required to get there. He’ll launch the Kickstarter campaign on Veterans Day at Imagination Brewing in an effort to raise the last $25,000 he needs to complete the project and open the doors.

He’s also looking to partner with local sponsors to raise $7,500 to match a donation made by a local philanthropist. If successful, the $15,000 would provide 22 veterans a free float session each month.

The business is also partnering with a 501c3 to accept tax deductible donations, he said.

“The fact of the matter is, between 17 and 22 vets are committing suicide every day,” Gangloff said. “They’re suffering from the things I did. The programs that should be helping them get through this and reintegrate aren’t there or aren’t sufficient. I’m offering one venue that was really helpful for me.”

Back in April, Gangloff and his fiance, Savanna Scotson, stood in what then served as a shell of a room off Higgins Avenue, describing their vision for the spa. Six months later, the framing is up and the pods are ready for placement.

If the couple meets its goal by the mid-December deadline, the business will open early next year. The Kickstarter campaign launches Friday.

“For me, floating was about acknowledging how much my past was affecting my present,” he said. “In each new moment, you get this new opportunity to define your future. It was my own personal enlightenment, and Enlighten Lab is my opportunity to do that for other people.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com