By Kerrie Kennedy
Build it and they will come. That was Eric Soderholm’s philosophy when he built the stunning A-frame log cabin sanctuary in Willowbrook that houses his wellness center, Soder World. For almost 20 years now, Soderholm has been practicing, preaching and delivering healing arts to the community, a calling that he refers to as is “dharma,” or his ultimate calling in life.
But long ago, it seemed his calling was baseball. A former third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees from 1971 to 1980, Soderholm had the kind of sports career most people dream about.
“I’ve been very blessed to get paid to do something I loved doing, which is to play Major League Baseball,” he says.
After knee injuries, he went on to build a successful business, Front Row Tickets.
But Soderholm was getting burned out. He felt he had a greater purpose in life. A phone call from his daughter Misty, a graduate of the San Diego School of Healing Arts, changed everything.
“She was working for Depak Choprah at the time, and she called and asked my wife and I to invest some money so we could do what Depak was doing, but in the Midwest,” he says.
So in 1997, Soderholm and his family (his wife Ginny does the accounting, his son is active in marketing, and his daughter runs the massage school) opened the first Soder World Wellness Center & Academy in a Willowbrook strip-mall, offering massages, spa treatments, workshops, classes and yoga, among other things.
But after his landlord raised the rent, Soderholm began to think about building his own place—something that could house a school to train masseuses and yoga instructors, and with enough land to create a meditative garden. Three days after he got the call from his landlord, a woman came in late for her massage, explaining that when she downloaded directions to Soder World, it showed that the facility was located on Ill. Rte. 83 on Neilson Lane.
“She said she drove there, and it was nothing but a wooded lot, and that’s why she was late,” Soderholm says.
Meanwhile, a man in the lobby overheard the conversation, and introduced himself as the listing agent of that property, which was for sale.
“It was synchronicity,” Soderholm says. “It was just meant to be.”
The sanctuary Soderholm built includes a two-acre “Garden of Eden” with swans and a waterfall, a sweat lodge in the Native American tradition, a Himalayan salt cave, a walking labyrinth and enough space to house an academy, yoga studio, spa, community education workshops, several on-staff chiropractic doctors, accupunturists and frequent community education workshops. “I really want to give back to the community,” he says.
Recent workshops have included a three-part series on the truth about cancer, a seminar on the benefits of medical marijuana, and a tutorial on herbology. Free meditation classes are offered on Thursday nights.
“There are so many alternative ways to approach illness,” Soderholm says. “There’s a place for homeopathic medicine.”
Among the many unique things about Soder World is the fact you might just run into a White Sox player—or his wife—while you’re waiting for your massage.
“Ernie Banks used to come in all the time and get massages,” Soderholm says. “Jim Thome’s wife was just in, and so was Bill Campbell’s. And when Mark Buehrle’s wife had trouble getting pregnant, she came in and saw our doctors and got pregnant.”
Helping people—whomever they are—is what makes Soderholm happy these days.
“There’s nothing greater than what we’ve been able to create here with Soder World,” Soderholm says. “Helping people discover who they really are, how to heal themselves, and let go of their fears—not to mention the fact that I’m doing it with my family—brings a joy that comes from doing what you’re meant to do.”