Two Southern Arizona Veterans Health Care System veterans recently traveled to the Snowmass at Aspen to participate in this national recreation therapy event sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans.
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is a dynamic healing event where veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, vision loss, traumatic brain injury, and other disabilities converge on the mountain in Snowmass, Colorado, and learn how to ski using adaptive equipment. Hundreds of volunteers, including ski instructors, support the clinic by helping the veterans learn Nordic and Alpine ski training despite their limitations.
U.S. Air Force Veteran Matt Kosto faced a life-changing injury after leaving the military, but the resilience he learned from his service is helping him cope with what’s ahead.
“Even though I lost my leg due to a motorcycle accident, I tell people that life does not suck. It’s just another chance for us to see how resilient we can be,” he said.
Kosto participated in several skiing events and alternative activities, which he loved, but he says his favorite part was connecting with the 300 other veterans he now calls his brothers. “To me, that was the best part,” he added. “The support was amazing, and it was a seamless experience. I would tell any veteran who is eligible to seize this opportunity.”
U.S. Navy veteran Samuel Richardson, an amputee, says, “I enjoy being with other veterans with similar disabilities and showing how this amputation does not define me. The military made us strong, and I’m thankful I can join this group. Events like this show me that VA is committed to me 100%,” he added.
More than 800 Recreation Therapists and Creative Arts (art, dance, drama, and music) Therapists work across the VA healthcare system to help veterans daily find ways to enjoy their lives despite their disabilities.
Kosto and Richardson pushed themselves through to their next round of recovery by utilizing VA’s Adaptive Sports Program benefits. In addition to adaptive skiing, the clinic offered alternative activities, including:
- Cross-country skiing
- Sled Hockey
- Fly fishing
- Rock climbing
- Adaptive cycling
- And much more
VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being, and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors, and community partners.
The Sports for Vets initiative offers six adaptive activities for veterans to heal through recreational therapy. Since the program operates under VA guidelines, veterans who wish to participate must first be enrolled in VA healthcare. You can learn more about the VA’s Sports Programs and Special events online https://department.va.gov/veteran-sports/.