With improvements in medical technology, military personnel are able to live through the severe injuries that come from war. Across the nation, many veterans are returning from combat with permanent disabilities, both visible and invisible. Some of the most common combat injuries include burns, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), amputations, and post-traumatic stress (PTSD). Through adaptive recreation, injured service members can take part in activities they enjoyed prior to injury, try new recreational activities, build camaraderie, and heal inside and out.
Eagle Mount Bozeman has been in the business of providing affordable adaptive recreation to people with disabilities for almost thirty years, always maintaining a focus on ability. Founded by an Air Force general and his wife, Eagle Mount has been serving veterans from the start. In 2011, a veteran outreach initiative began to bring in more veterans from recent conflicts. With the help of CNCS, Eagle Mount was able to bring a VISTA on board to assist with program research and development, outreach, and recruitment for veteran programs.
The VISTA began with research, calling adaptive recreation facilities across the nation and requesting information on how they are adapting programs to serve veterans. Once the data was compiled into a spreadsheet, it was simple to obtain best practices for veteran programs. The data was compared to Eagle Mount’s current capacity to serve veterans, and a program model was formed. An advisory board consisting of local veterans from all eras was formed and continues to lend support and advice for veteran programs.
A community assessment was completed as well. Statistical data was retrieved from the VA, and the VISTA joined a group of veteran service providers. The group meets once monthly to discuss the work they are doing, assistance they need, and new opportunities for veterans. The community is thrilled for Eagle Mount to serve Montana veterans.
A pre and post program assessment was created for veterans to show participant progress and program satisfaction. Volunteer and participant recruitment have been simplified through connections with Montana State University and Wounded Warrior Project nationwide. A PowerPoint on PTSD and TBI was crafted to supplement pre-existing program-specific volunteer trainings. The VISTA was able to write grants to several foundations and funding is pending. Publicity has been developed and posted around town.
With the groundwork laid, program directors worked with the VISTA to create veteran-only classes in equestrian therapy, aquatics, kayak, cycling, and ski. As 2011 marks the first year for these programs, classes are starting small but getting wonderful results. Veteran participants who sign up for one activity are often so thrilled with their results they sign up for a second or third type of recreation.
Pilot programs for veterans at Eagle Mount are opening doors. In the future more classes will be available, more veterans will be able to take part in these activities, and lives will change for the better. With the community behind us 100%, Eagle Mount can change lives and make reintegration into civilian life much easier for disabled Montana veterans.