Grants in Action: Veteran Empowerment Through the Game Of Golf

Special to the Alliance Blog: Kim Seevers, Adaptive Sports Foundation, Program Development & Grants Director

Golf 1 GroupTwelve U.S. combat veterans gather around a table at the Adaptive Sports Center in Windham, NY. A few greet old friends, injured veterans they’ve participated with in previous Adaptive Sports Foundation events. Others sit quietly, faces pinched with nervous energy, unable to engage with the others. One finds it hard to even enter the building as this is one of the few times he’s left his home since returning from combat and/or rehabilitation. Everyone is quickly drawn into the circle by ASF staff, volunteers, and the program alums, many of whom felt the same trepidation the first time they came to a Warriors in Motion program. All have some type of disability; amputation, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic problems of all types, or combat or post- traumatic stress. On the agenda is a three-day golf camp for injured troops; they will spend the next three days learning the game of golf, talking about wellness and nutrition, pursuing restorative yoga, practicing relaxation techniques to improve their sleep habits, and connecting with other veterans who have been through similar military experiences. They share meals, and after dinner, they relax together in the cozy comfort of the Adaptive Sports Center.

Yes this is just a golf camp, but make no mistake, the healing effects of the program will last well beyond the three or four rounds played over these next three days.
The physical, emotional and economic toll of a serious service-related injury does not end when the service member leaves the military. Years after they are discharged, veterans who were badly hurt while serving are more than twice as likely as their more fortunate comrades to say they had trouble readjusting to civilian life. A warrior who attended all three WiM golf camps last summer relayed this up-date to us after his program ended.

“Last May I was a lost soul. Though I never attempted suicide, every day I wished to die, mostly because all the pain I felt, and the misery I caused people because of my pain, would go away. I was 248 pounds and was on medication. Today I weigh 203 pounds. I have taken part in initiating a Suicide Awareness Ruck on Veterans Day. I’ve spoken on the topic to my daughter’s school. I’ve run a Ragnar Relay and ran a sprint triathlon and a half marathon (with my golf instructor). In summary I would tell you that your programs change lives. One life I can assure you is mine.”

ASF staff and volunteers believe in the power of the outdoors and the benefits of the tranquility of a day spent on the Windham Country Club golf course with the beautiful Catskill Mountains in the background. We believe in the emotional healing and subsequent empowerment of our injured heroes. We know that regular exercise reduces stress, obesity, depression and secondary medical conditions for individuals with disabilities.

“ASF is an important part of warriors succeeding in obtaining a viable activity level. They encouraged me even when I felt failure, they stood by my side to assure that I obtained the skills that were long terms goals to improve my life. ASF has taught me the beginner skills that I have taken back to my community to use on my own (golf, kayak, and cycling). Learning these new skills has also increased my motivation to continue being active, which in turn assists with my depression and sleep.”

Warriors in Motion programming strives to impact the ‘whole warrior’ in three aspects of their recovery; physical, cognitive, and social. According to the Penn State Hershey Center for Nutrition and Activity, because of their low impact nature, activities like paddling, cycling, golf, and hiking are all useful tools for people in rehabilitation to gently increase strength and aerobic fitness without doing any harm to existing injuries. These activities have also been proven to improve joint health and flexibility and to increase range of motion which keeps joints fluid and lubricated.

With support from the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, ASF was able to offer three multi-day golf camps between May and September 2017. The Alliance provided funding for greens fees, coaching fees, and to help the veterans pay for their travel expenses to get to the camp. This support will continue through the 2018 program, allowing Adaptive Sports Foundation and the National Alliance for Accessible Golf to impact even more injured veterans the prospect of recovery through the game of golf.

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About National Alliance for Accessible Golf
The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a coalition of recreational, therapeutic, and golf organizations committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities through the game of golf.

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