Warrior Institute

Yesterday we talked about a wonderful opportunity for healing in Montana. Today, we’re crossing the country to Florida. Gainesville, Florida, to be exact.

The Warrior Institute for Rehabilitation and Optimal Conditioning is a small non-profit run by a father-daughter team, Jeff and Tonia Zyburt. Tonia, who holds a Master’s in Recreational Therapy Administration from Eastern Carolina University and also works as a therapist at Shands Rehabilitation Hospital, serves as Program Director. While Jeff, who has a background in engineering in the auto industry, serves as President.

Founded in 2011, the Warrior Institute serves veterans with mild to moderate TBI and/or PTSD and its associated symptoms. They use a two-prong system of recreational therapy, in the form of Warrior Paddle rides and other primarily outdoor activities, and biofeedback. Biofeedback uses technology to help veterans understand and mitigate the physical and emotional manifestations of stress. Heart rate, brainwaves, breathing, and other physical signals of stress can be observed and then, through training, adjusted or controlled.

All therapy services offered by the Warrior Institute are free to participants. Warrior Institute also understands that a veteran coping with such challenges isn’t doing this alone and includes family members in its therapy plans and activities. Groups for each event are kept small, usually limited to 8, to allow everyone a chance to use the biofeedback machines. Warrior Institute also partners with other organizations, such as Outward Bound, to bring even more opportunities to their veterans, such a kayaking in the Florida Keys.

Recently, in an effort to raise awareness, create a comfortable space for veterans, and even raise a little money, the Warrior Institute opened the “Outpost,” an onsite coffee shop open to the public. Furnished with old-fashioned wooden folding chairs and tables and even a checkers set, the area is relaxed and welcoming. Currently being manned by Tonia herself, the Outpost plans to hire veterans to work the coffee shop. They serve coffee from a local company, Tree City Coffee, who made a special “Warrior Blend” just for the Outpost. They also offer free Wi-Fi and encourage their customers to stay awhile.

On Tuesday nights the tables and chairs get cleared out for an hour (6:30-7:30) of yoga. Taught by Tonia herself, the classes are focused on relaxation and awareness. Classes are $10 each for the general public and 50% off for veterans.

Upcoming events include:

  • 3 July – Warrior Paddle on the Santa Fe River; 9:30am-4pm. Warrior Institute will provide kayaks/paddles, instruction, an intro to biofeedback, and lunch. According to their FB page, as of yesterday they still had two spots available, though that may have changed by now!
  • 12 July – Community Clean Up at the Santa Fe River. This event is open to the general public.

You can find more info on Warrior Institute on their website. And you can find details on upcoming events and developments on their FB page and Twitter feed.

© 2014 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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