The Adaptive Sports Program of VA Boston is a great opportunity for traumatically injured Veterans to re-establish an active lifestyle. The program had its start about fifteen years ago with a Veteran and the current Chief of Voluntary Services, Ralph Marche. Since then, adaptive sports programs have become a huge success. The Adaptive Sports program currently has about two hundred participants taking advantage of the wide range of athletic options provided by the program. Some of these activities include kayaking, cycling, surfing, rowing, air rifle, fishing, sailing, snowboarding, basketball, and many more.
VA Boston, the second official VA Adaptive Sports Program in the country, has a very successful program. They not only strive to provide a comfortable, no-judgment atmosphere, but they also direct Veterans to community organizations (in some cases near their home) where they can independently develop their skills and continue to be active into the future.
Disabled Veterans who have joined the program say they feel healthier, have improved quality of life, and developed strong relationships with fellow participants. One Veteran said, “Thank you for what you do! This surf clinic helped me get back onto my feet. I didn’t want to be out in the community when I returned. I just wanted to be with my brothers and sisters who I served with. Even though I don’t have a physical disability, these clinics helped me more than you’ll ever know.” All Veterans of all skill levels and disabilities receiving healthcare from the VA and have a referral from their primary care physician are eligible for participation in Adaptive Sports. Disabilities are also not only limited to physical impairments; those with mental health issues such as PTSD are welcome and encouraged to join the program.
Volunteers are a large part of the success of the program. Many of the programs offered to the Veterans stem from partnerships with community organizations offering adaptive sports. Some of these organizations include New England Handicapped Sports Association (NEHSA), Northeast Passage, New England Disabled Sports, New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), and Charles River Canoe & Kayak. Many of the volunteers come from our own VA Medical Centers offering a special set of skills to each and every Veteran participating in the Adaptive Sports Program. These are everyday people you see on campus, PTs, OTs, Nurses, MDs, RTs, SLPs, and even other Veterans, who are giving back to the VA in a fun and interactive way.
During these clinics, the program not only offers to provide a therapeutic outlet for Veterans, but it also strives to train them and help them reach a higher sports level. Jenny McLaughlin says, “We provide Veterans with the opportunity to reach a higher level of athletics if desired.”
Getting the Veterans to be active and involved in Adaptive Sports assists them in their preparation for National VA Rehabilitation events such as National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, Golden Age Games, Wheelchair Games, and many more.
Participating in the Adaptive Sports Program is not only a form of rehabilitation, but it is also a doorway to a newly created active lifestyle where anyone and everyone can participate. If interested in volunteering or joining the program please feel free to contact Jenny McLaughlin at Jenny.McLaughlin@va.gov.