Feature Article - April 2011
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Marching Ahead

The Connection Between Recreation & Quality of Life

By Rick Dandes

In response to this challenge, Penn State University in 2007 began offering a Wounded Warriors outreach program at its State College campus.

"Since 2007," Smith added, "We have held numerous trainings and many participants have reported back programmatic and service changes. Examples include more ramps, roll-up mats enabling beach access, more signage, marketing media and materials that offer information on seeking accommodations, a more concerted effort to make some on-installation lodging and vacation rentals more physically accessible, more staff trained on various war-related injuries, such as PTSD, TBI and amputations. And Army staff have been taught ways to modify or adapt their programs to accommodate injured military personnel."

Bradner, of the U.S. Army, noted that his service is sending more and more recreation coordinators to the Penn State program, the latest of which ended this past March.

"The program has proved highly effective," he agreed. "We are sending our recreation managers to classes at PSU to attend these four-day courses designed to train staff to successfully integrate active-duty wounded warriors into their existing recreational programs. The courses teach Army staff adaptive ways to use machinery, ways to adapt sports programs, ways to adapt recreation programs to handicapped soldiers, ways to incorporate sitting volleyball, wheelchair tennis, adaptive golf and those types of things into their exercise routines to help wounded warriors remain active after they've returned from service, after they've returned from the war front."

Bradner explained that there are also Wounded Warrior golf programs where the Army has partnered with the National Amputee Golf Association and the Professional Golfers Association to help give clinics, teaching soldiers how to adapt their swing to whatever disability they may have come back with.

One of Wounded Warriors most popular programs is called the Soldiers Ride—a rehabilitative cycling experience that honors our military men and women as they courageously battle the physical and psychological damages of war, said Becky Melvin, public relations manager for the Wounded Warriors Project.

Melvin said there are 13 Soldier Rides scheduled this year. (For a complete list of sites, go online to the Soldier Rides homepage: www.sr.woundedwarriorproject.org/site/c.buISJ9NSKqLaG/b.)

The Soldiers Ride accommodates amputees as well. "Warriors of all ability levels cycle in Soldiers Ride," Melvin said. "There are state-of-the-art adaptive hand cycles, trikes and bicycles to accommodate warriors with various injuries and disabilities, as well as unmodified road bikes for riders not requiring adaptive equipment. Wounded Warrior Project provides equipment and support at no cost to warriors."

Wounded Warriors offers other recreational-rehabilitative programs, such as a partnership with Disabled Sports USA, which provides year-round sports programs to help injured service members gain confidence and independence, while adapting to life after injury.

"With adaptive equipment and trained instructors," Melvin said, "warriors can participate in almost any sport, moving them beyond rehabilitation and toward a full and productive life. Through our partnership with the Vail Veterans Program, for example, we provide winter and summer outdoor recreation activities such as snowboarding, skiing, fly-fishing, rafting, and camping to wounded warriors, their immediate families and primary caregivers."