The sports director for the RHI Foundation in Indianapolis says a recently-awarded grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was critical in bringing more disabled veterans to its adaptive sports programs. The philanthropic arm of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana received the grant in January. Karen Lawrence says before the grant, it had been difficult for the foundation to bring veterans into the fold.
In an interview with Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta, Lawrence said the foundation had been trying to get veterans involved for a long time and had to rethink its efforts.
“When we saw this grant, we though, ‘Okay, who can we work with to be able to achieve our goal?’ So we reached out to the YMCA and the VA and we thought to ourselves, ‘Okay, this is an amazing partnership,” said Lawrence. “With the YMCA, we have space. With the VA, we have veterans. And with our sports program, we have the adaptive sports, so this could give the veterans exactly what they need.”
Lawrence says the grant allows the foundation to partner with Veteran Health Indiana. She says the collaboration with the VA and other veteran organizations is key to get the word out to veterans that the adaptive sports programs are available to them.
“So many of these veteran organizations and these disabled veterans had no idea that this adaptive sports program is out there. So this allows them to be able to participate. And what this allows us to do is this is a free program for them. Because of the Veterans Affairs grant, the Veterans Affairs is actually paying for them to participate in the program. So they can participate in clinics; they can participate in teams; they can do any of our ongoing events for free.”
The RHI Foundation’s adaptive sports program is completely funded through donations and sponsorships. Lawrence says the foundation hopes the VA grant will lead to more grants with the eventual goal of having its own facility.
“Right now, all of our teams are all over Indiana and that’s hard. Our clinics are over here and over there and so there’s not that connectivity that our athletes can have. So, our power soccer team doesn’t really know our basketball team; our beep baseball team doesn’t know our wheelchair lacrosse team. How amazing would it be to have all these athletes together to be able to see each other, to be able to be their cheerleaders, for younger athletes to have role models that are similar to them, for us to be able to house events and different types of programs?”
Lawrence says having a dedicated facility would go a long way in adding to Indiana’s reputation as a sports state by adding adaptive sports to that as well.