Vail Veterans Program caregivers garner national recognition, grants | VailDaily.com

Vail Veterans Program caregivers garner national recognition, grants

VAIL — You can add Sen. Elizabeth Dole to the Adorable Dozen.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation picked the Vail Veterans Program's caregivers retreats to be among the 14 organizations that will share a grant of more than a half million dollars.

Last September's group of caregivers named themselves The Adorable Dozen. Yeah, there were 14 caregivers there, but they decided the extra caregivers just make them extra adorable.

They're all caregivers for combat veterans who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as heroic as those soldiers are the people who take care of them.

For many of the women, it was their first time away from their families since their husbands were wounded in combat.

Recommended Stories For You

Hidden Heroes Fund

The grant is part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's Hidden Heroes Fund, dedicated to supporting programs that have a direct impact in the lives of America's military and veteran caregivers. The Vail Veterans Program was one of 14 chosen from among 150 applicants.

"When the Foundation launched the Hidden Heroes Campaign in September, we renewed our commitment to supporting initiatives that improve the lives of the spouses, mothers, dads, children, siblings, and friends who are caring for America's wounded warriors," Dole said. "The Hidden Heroes Fund is just one of the ways in which we are continuing that commitment."

The Vail Veterans Program provides outdoor programs to injured military members and their families. The caregiver retreats allow caregivers to relax and connect with other caregivers facing similar challenges.

"They" said

That September group that dubbed themselves The Adorable Dozen, grew so close so fast that they were finishing each other's sentences by the end of the first day. So everything they said, "they" said.

"We can express ourselves to each other, because only we know each other," they said.

Most of the women are caring for husbands and living independently in communities, away from the hospital.

"You bring together this group of women who have these shared experiences and the relationships form almost instantly," said Cheryl Jensen, founder and CEO of the Vail Veterans Program. "Building this community and creating these friendships is so important. When things get hard at home and you need someone to talk to, you'll have someone."

Jensen reached out, breaking through that isolation and invites the women to Vail.

"I thought, 'What? That happens?! You can go places? You can do things?'" they said.

Yes. Yes, you can.

"The Vail Veterans Program is honored to be a recipient of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes Fund Grant Award," Jensen said. "The work of a caregiver so often goes unnoticed, so it's important that we provide programs to help to define their individual purpose and give them the opportunity to build a community of mutual support."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

About the Vail Veterans Program

• The Vail Veterans Program provides rehabilitative sports programs to United States military personnel who have been severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the troops that support those efforts.

• The program is open to wounded warriors and their families, building confidence and hope through skiing, snowboarding and outdoor summer recreational activities.

• The Vail Veterans Program is a volunteer organization and hosts wounded military members and their families free of charge.

• Send donations or contact them at: P.O. Box 6473, Vail, Colorado 81658; 970-476-4906; email: vailveteransprogram@gmail.com.

• Since 2004, the Vail Veterans Program has provided therapeutic, rehabilitative sports and recreation programs to severely injured military and their families.

• Throughout the year wounded veterans and their families come to Vail to participate in three, four, and five day programs including goal setting, adaptive sports training, family time, relationship building, and mentoring.

• VVP’s programs are free to all participants.

• The VVP also sponsors therapeutic retreats for individual families, provides psychologically healing services for VVP participants, and annually co-sponsors a team of military injured to run the Army 10-Miler race in Washington, DC.