Several months after Albany County was awarded an approximately $200,000 adaptive sports grant, local veterans are already seeing the results.
The county received the United States Veterans Administration grant in partnership with the Wyoming Consortium for Veterans Activities, which is Wyoming groups and agencies looking to offer adaptive sports services and activities for veterans.
Marty Martinez, senior project coordinator at the University of Wyoming Veterans Services Center, said some of that funding has gone toward Project Healing Waters, a fly-fishing program for veterans with disabilities.
“A lot of veterans are coming in pretty high strung, a lot of stress issues, maybe some PTSD or they’ve had (traumatic brain injuries), so their hands shake a little bit,” he said. “Those types of issues that we’ve been working with, when you’re trying to tie flies or build a fly rod. That kind of makes it more difficult, kind of adds to the frustration that veterans feel when doing some of those things.”
To date, the center has spent more than $1,000 on specialty equipment for fly-tying, Martinez said.
“For some veterans, being able to wrap the thread where they need to, it gets kind of hard to see sometimes,” he explained. “So, we’re buying magnifying lenses for that — just different items that are really helping … that part is really starting to pay off for us.”
Martinez said the center also plans to purchase a transport chair — a piece of equipment he estimates will cost several thousand dollars — and potentially one or two bicycles that can be pedaled with one’s hands.
Nicole Bleak, a trainer at CrossFit 7220, said the grant funding is paying for individual veterans to participate in the gym’s beginning class, called Foundations, and take additional classes after completing that initial course. The gym currently has 25 members who are veterans, and about 15 have benefitted from the funding so far.
“Every month, we’ll have one or two more veterans join us and kind of learn the basics of CrossFit and how that can benefit them,” she said.
Bleak said she hopes the grant funding will also allow current CrossFit members to receive discounts on the basis of their veteran status.
“A lot of them have told us that CrossFit has been an outlet for them mentally to maybe feel part of a community again, and physically, to kind of challenge themselves physically again and find that fitness that they had before,” she said.
Tim Rush, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1961-1965, said he joined CrossFit 7220 in July 2015 at the invitation of gym owner Mike Dorssom. He attends classes several times a week — both the senior workouts as well as the regular classes.
“It’s really improved the quality of my life,” he said. “I’ve said that before. Flexibility, balance, if I need to lift something I can lift it. Simple things.”
He described the discounts for veterans as “a great thing.”
“I think my friends in particular identify with each other, and we get together, and we don’t talk military, but we all understand each other, you know?” he said. “The shared experience and the kind of tolerance you learn having to work with people who aren’t like you and come from different parts of the country, that’s been a great thing.”