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NRPA’S Online Community Forums Address Best Practices in Therapeutic Recreation
“Please share your most successful strategies for therapeutic
recreation programs for returning veterans. What approaches have worked the
best and why?”
We have found the most successful Veteran Programming for us
has come after offering several interactive trainings with the V.A. therapists
and doctors to educate them about our continuous programming. We have then followed
up these educational programs with discounted programming offers for group
therapy at the golf course, rock climbing wall, ice sheets, and pools. Several
veterans with permanent disabilities are now very active in our continuous
adaptive sports and recreation programming outside of their therapeutic groups.
Our best advice is to focus on long-term programming, not just one-time events
that don’t match everyday programming.
Jeffrey M. Burley MS,
Adaptive Program Manager
Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation
Salt Lake City, Utah
We have seen substantial positive reinforcement to the
outcomes of our Army program, called Warrior Adventure Quest, in reference to
post-deployment recreational therapy contributions. WAQ is an Armed Forces
Generation (ARFORGEN) deployment cycle, reset training tool designed to
reinforce unit cohesion and influence reductions of accidents and behavioral
incidences for redeployed soldiers adjusting from the high-paced,
high-adrenaline combat environment to garrison or home life.
WAQ combines existing Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR),
recreational Army programs, high-adventure outdoor recreation activities (e.g.,
rock climbing, mountain biking, paintball, scuba, ropes courses, skiing, and
others) with an after-action debriefing/communication tool. Currently, WAQ is
conducted in platoon-level groups (25-30 people) within the first 120 days
after return to home station. As of September 2012, 40 garrisons conduct WAQ
activity programs. The program has so far served approximately 4,842 platoons
or 121,055 soldiers.
A series of measurements are in place to test the
effectiveness of the program. So far, survey results from soldiers who have
participated in the WAQ program show a positive association between WAQ
participation and risk reduction: 35 percent fewer accidents and 13 percent
fewer behavioral incidents for WAQ participants versus Army norms. This tool
demonstrates that high-adventure recreation can be a coping outlet to help
soldiers realize their own new level of normal and move on with their lives.
SSG Bradley Washington
Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) helps our injured military members and
veterans cope with acclimating themselves to their new lives with visible and
unseen injuries. This is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization that focuses on
physical and psychological rehabilitation through its Project HERO (Healing
Exercise Rehab Opportunity) cycling programs at Warrior Transition Units,
Wounded Warrior BN Units, and military hospitals. By maintaining the integrity
of cycling as rehabilitation throughout the week on a regular schedule, R2R
pushes injured service members and veterans to test personal limits while
riding with other service members who have faced similar issues.
Cycling has proven to be a catalyst in the recovery process
by providing a new physical challenge while concurrently helping to cope with
the mental challenges. Riding alongside others with similar experiences helps
our healing heroes feel comfortable talking about what happened to them as they
also set goals and find ways to cope with their “new normal.” R2R enables
people to ride no matter their disabilities, often custom building or modifying
road bikes, hand cycles, recumbents, and tandems to fit individual needs. Each
hand cycle and recumbent has an R2R “push bar” which enables fellow riders to
assist as needed on hills or in tough conditions. Pushing a fellow rider up a
hill while struggling themselves builds an enduring bond.
Through cycling, R2R provides service members with an
alternative form of exercise that they can continue with family members or friends
outside of the organized R2R Challenges. Exercise that was so critical to the
daily lives of our military can once again be a continuing part of their lives.
During the course of a week-long Challenge, many
first-timers accomplish personal goals—from finishing miles to reconnecting
with others who have had similar injuries and issues. The camaraderie of the
group is often mentioned as a highlight of helping to find new ways to cope.
R2R staff, volunteers, and cadre ride with active-duty
service members and veterans, pushing them to meet their goals, transporting
luggage for riders, arranging meals and hotels—all to allow cyclists to focus
on their recovery. Family members are encouraged to ride or volunteer on the
support team, so they can participate in and witness the experience with their
R2R has garnered the support of DoD leadership as well as
all four branches of our military. Sponsors such as UnitedHealthcare, the USO,
United Airlines, Chevrolet, Raleigh, BAE Systems, Macy’s, U-Haul, and Deloitte
assure that there is no cost to the service members who are cycling. Hotels,
food, luggage transportation, bikes, and equipment are provided.
Since 2008, R2R has held 25 long-distance (330-500 miles)
Challenges for more than 3,000 riders. For more information on how to
participate or about the organization, visit www.ride2recovery.com.
Barbara Springer Ph.D.
National Director, Project HERO
Our community at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is involved
with offering Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS). This program is led
by our local dive club. If you talk to SUDS veterans who have been here before,
they’ll agree GTMO is really the crown jewel of the SUDS diving experience.
SUDS members attended two days of open-water training to receive dive
certifications before participating in unassisted dives in Guantanamo Bay’s
numerous “dive spot” locations. This weekend-long event allows our community to
give back to those who sacrifice for us. It also shows disabled veterans that
there are opportunities that can be enjoyed after an injury, and the experience
is extremely therapeutic for all involved. Being a volunteer is very rewarding
as well. It is a great example of how being a part of something bigger than
yourself can be very worthwhile and fulfilling.
Military OneSource (MOS) is a Department of Defense program
providing resources, services, and educational materials all at no cost,
including shipping and handling. Not only do they support service members in
their everyday life and all phases of deployment, but their spouses and
children are also eligible. Some of the services and educational materials we
provide are counseling (mental health and financial); spousal career and
education, including a job board; parenting; elder care; relationships;
deployments; stress; and many more. MOS also provides health coaching with a
personal coach to help reduce stress and promote healthy eating, exercise,
weight loss, etc., plus an online library.
There are many other topics we provide. As a service
provider, you are all eligible for some of our services and resources that you
may use in order to assist our military and their families. I am sure you will
find Military OneSource a great complement to your services. There is a Joint
Family Support Assistant Program (JFSAP) Consultant in each state working with
all branches of the military and their families.
Network Buzz appears monthly in Parks & Recreation.
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Topics are always welcome: email firstname.lastname@example.org.