The Vail Veterans Program, founded by Cheryl Jenson and Major David Rozelle, is a unique rehabilitation program that has been proudly serving injured Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families since 2004. The program pairs experienced ski or snowboard instructors with a veteran. The instructors assist in modifying the equipment to fit each participants specific needs, educate them how to use the equipment, and finally teach them how to ski or snowboard using the adaptive equipment.
The program initially started as a one-time event, but due to the overwhelming success, has grown to a semi-annual event. Vail Veterans has assisted over 1,000 Wounded Warriors, many of whom come for the outdoor recreational therapy directly from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, and the Naval Medical Center.
Funded by sponsors, the Vail Veterans Program is free of charge for participants and their families. The program serves as a source of healing for veterans and their families. It is a chance to spend quality time with loved ones, as well as to socialize and connect with other veterans. For the veterans and instructors alike, the program is more than just a ski vacation, it is often life changing. Ski instructor and 7 year program volunteer, Josh Perkins (pictured above left) states that everyone involved is positively affected and everyone gets something different out of it. For some, participating in the outdoor recreational activities restores hope, builds self esteem and boosts confidence. For others, the program helps participants feel better about their future, and opens their minds to the possibilities that await them.
The Vail Veterans Program hosts several events throughout the year. There are two annual winter programs, one in January and the other in March, which teach adaptive skiing and snowboarding techniques. There is also an annual summer program in July which allows participants to choose from several activities including whitewater rafting, horseback riding, fly fishing, golfing, mountain biking, and zip lining.
Although this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Vail Veterans program, there are no big celebration plans. The program is simply about sharing, and giving back to the veterans. The ski instructors participating in the program did pitch in and purchase a pink firefighters helmet for the group’s founder Cheryl. The helmet is something she’s wanted, and the instructors had it personalized with her name and the #10 signifying the 10th anniversary of the program.
If you would like more information on the Vail Veterans Program, would like to become a program sponsor, or make a donation please visit their website at http://vailveteransprogram.org
Join us in congratulating the Vail Veterans Program on their 10th anniversary!