It was one of those beautiful New England summer days when the weather was perfect. Veterans strolling onto Second Beach in Middletown, Rhode Island, could feel the warm sun on their faces and the cool moist sand between their toes.

They couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather to begin the VA National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.

An AmpSurf volunteer and surf instructor gives a surf lesson to Veterans.

On this late summer day, six Veterans from New England gathered to surf as a part of their adaptive sports rehabilitation. About 40 AmpSurf volunteers helped throughout the exciting, fun-filled morning. And nationally, more than 200 Veterans from across the country participated in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic At-Home.

AmpSurf is a non-profit organization that promotes, inspires, educates and rehabilitates people with disabilities and their families through adaptive surf therapy and other outdoor activities.

Adaptive sports help Veterans with disabilities

The group teamed up with the New England VA to run the event. Since 2003, AmpSurf has been providing learn to surf therapy clinics to serve those in need.

“Adaptive sports and recreation help Veterans with disabilities participate in activities they may have felt were out of reach,” said Jenny Vulpis, adaptive sports case manager for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “It’s a powerful experience that can build camaraderie between Veterans and lead to a lifelong passion for sports.”

The body language, smiles, and boundless energy from the volunteers involved involved in the event showed their passion for working with Veterans.

While the weather was perfect, it did make for glassy surf conditions, with wave heights peaking at about two to three feet. The AmpSurf volunteers easily got all the Veterans up and surfing.

“Without this, I would be stuck in the house.”

“It definitely means a lot to me to use AmpSurf and VA because it helps me with my injuries,” said Veteran Rachel Bazile. “Without any of this, I would be stuck in the house, so I need the support.”

Participants were introduced to leisure activities and sports, featuring surfing, sailing, kayaking, cycling and adaptive fitness. New this year, Veterans benefited virtually from yoga, meditation, nutrition, cooking, and creative arts. Each session was interactive and led by world-class instructors who are experts in their field.

“We do this for Veterans. It gives them the opportunity to get out and be active in a community setting which is also a safe setting,” said Vulpis. “It also helps build camaraderie for Veterans and the volunteers. A couple of our volunteers are in fact Veterans, so those Veterans are giving back to Veterans.”

Learn more about the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.

By Russell Tippets is a Coast Guard Veteran and public affairs officer with the VA New England Healthcare System

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Published on Oct. 10, 2021

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