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VA Funds Adaptive Sports

Adaptive Sports Veterans

VA Funds Adaptive Sports

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs provides grant funding to organizations that offer adaptive sports and therapeutic recreation for veterans with disabilities and service members. In 2020, nearly $15 million were awarded to organizations serving approximately 13,000 veterans and service members. Programs provided services such as cycling, kayaking, archery, skiing, and equine therapy.

Why Adaptive Sports?

“Adaptive sport” describes a sport tailored or created for people living with disabilities. The concept expanded significantly when used to rehabilitate veterans after World War II. In a systematic review of the benefits, harms, barriers, and drivers of participation in adaptive sports, an expert panel found that although adaptive sports have potential, they need to be studied more rigorously to better understand their benefits.

Adaptive sports have long been used as a therapeutic tool. They have helped people come to terms with injuries or illnesses. They promote recovery in the following ways:

  • Physical activity reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, supports healthy weight, bolsters the recovery process, and promotes health
  • The focus shifts from disability to ability
  • Engaging with a team creates a sense of belonging and support
  • Competition can ignite the warrior spirit, empowering people to achieve goals despite challenges
  • These activities address the whole person and promote mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical well-being

Stories Are Powerful

Major Ivan Castro’s powerful recovery story is detailed in the book Fighting Blind: A Green Beret’s Story of Extraordinary Courage. After being blinded by an explosion in Iraq, he adapted to marathon running by tethering himself to friends with a shoestring. Setting the goal of running a marathon gave Castro a sense of purpose and a goal that he could control.

For Castro, running renewed a sense of purpose.

Adaptive Sports Grant Program

The Adaptive Sports Grant Program is managed by the National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events Office (NVSP&SE). The NVSP&SE strives to improve veterans’ and disabled service members’ quality of life through adaptive sports and therapeutic arts programs.

In 2020, 116 organizations received grant funding. A small handful of them is described here. For a complete list, read VA Adaptive Sports Grant Recipients 2020.

  • AmpSurf has offered Adaptive Surf Therapy and other outdoor activities since 2003 to provide mentally and physically rewarding experiences.
  • The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center hosts winter and summer events to support recovery and healing through skiing and camping.
  • Challenge Alaska offers hockey and cycling sports programs specifically designed for veterans with disabilities, injured active-duty service members, and their families.
  • Life Waters helps veterans, first responders, and civilians by offering recreational water therapy through scuba diving. The program is operated by a team of medical professionals.
  • Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a nationwide fly-fishing program that offers physical and emotional rehabilitation to disabled veterans.
  • Shamrock Reins offers Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy programs and deployment support to service members and their families.

Related [Outdoor Recreation for Veterans: Free and Discounted Options]

Grants are Necessary

The increase in adaptive sports programs will continue to grow. These programs offer value to service members and veterans. When the benefits are clearly described by research, these programs have a greater potential to reach more people. By providing Adaptive Sports Grant Funding, the VA is supporting the use of adaptive sports in recovery.





About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.