With advances in technology and medical science, more veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have survived the battlefield than in any previous war. They are not, however, coming home whole. Many are returning with missing limbs, burns, paralysis, loss of sight and/or hearing, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and other injuries and conditions that impair their ability to live the life they had before combat. Although nothing will likely ever be “the same” as it was before, it doesn’t mean that their ability to be active has been completely lost. In fact, physical activity has been proven to increase the recovery time and the quality of life for veterans with physical and mental injuries. That recovery, however, is not easy and it doesn’t have to be done alone. Many organizations exist to help veterans regain their physical and mental fitness and I will cover a few of them this week, starting with Adaptive Adventures.
Founded in 1999 by Joel Berman, who lost his left leg above the knee in a railroad accident, and Matt Feeney, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a cliff diving accident, Adaptive Adventures is a non-profit that provides “progressive outdoor sports opportunities” to children, adults, servicemembers, and veterans with physical disabilities, as well as advocating and training through the use of speakers, outreach, and training. Operating primarily in the West and Midwest (though they are expanding), they offer year-round sports and recreation opportunities to between 1200 and 1500 individuals a year, about 400 of them veterans. Available activities include Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding, Cycling, Kayaking, Indoor Rock Climbing, Scuba Diving, Sailing, Waterskiing, Wakeboarding and Whitewater Rafting. And most are, interestingly, taught at least in part by instructors who also have disabilities.
Adaptive Adventures’ Military Operations (AAMO) Program is the part of their program specifically dedicated to assisting servicemembers and veterans with disabilities. Using a combination of adaptive equipment, experienced staff, volunteers, and family and caregiver participation, AAMO addresses veterans’ current ability levels and develops a plan to increase their fitness in the physical, mental, and emotional areas, often in coordination with other veterans organizations, such as Wound Warrior Project, the VA, and military hospitals.
Events such as the Veterans Ski & Ride, the 6th Annual Adaptive Steep and Deep Camp (which will feature US Paralympic Gold Medalist Greg Manino), and the National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic can all be located under the “calendar” tab and clicking on an event will give you event details, location, and cost (if any – many have Wounded Warrior Scholarships available).
To register to participate, you will need to provide personal contact details, an emergency contact, an overview of your disability, any allergies and/or medication, which programs you are interested in, and details on your service. If you would prefer to volunteer, you will need to provide similar information, plus details on any previous volunteer experience and First Aid/CPR certification.
To get involved or find out more information, go to http://adaptiveadventures.org/
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