Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Hitting the links with Vail Veterans Program
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Golf is a frustratingly addictive sport — just when you think you want to give it up, you hit that perfect shot and you’re hooked again.
As challenging as golf is, imagine not having full mobility of your legs because you’re a single or double amputee above or below the knee. Or picture yourself holding the golf club with one arm because you lost the other from an improvised explosive device while defending your country in Afghanistan or Iraq.
For wounded veterans, golf helps them find their footing in more ways than one.
Since 2004, the Vail Veterans Program has provided rehabilitative sports and recreational activities to help build confidence and provide a sense of freedom from catastrophic injuries. First held on Vail Mountain, the activities included skiing and snowboarding with the help of adaptive equipment.
Summer programs started a few years later, offering fly-fishing, rafting, mountain biking and horseback riding. Now, there is the golf outing held at various courses throughout Eagle County.
Adaptive programs are so important in not only healing the body, but also healing the mind. Many veterans discover new possibilities within the inspirational surroundings of the Rockies. Or they just hit a nice, long drive.
“It’s awesome. Sometimes when I play good, I can beat guys with legs,” said Tim Johannsen, a double-amputee who is an ambassador for the Vail Veterans Program. “It brings your spirits up.”
The Vail Veterans Program is offered at no charge to its participants. It is donation-based, and one easy way to give back is to purchase tickets for the Gourmet on Gore Tasting Tour on Friday, Sept. 2, which benefits the Vail Veterans Program.
Those units are all deed-restricted, meaning that only people who work an annual average of 30 hours per week can live there. That keeps the apartments out of the short-term rental pool and available to local residents.