The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to all countries of the world. Social and physical distancing measures, such as lockdowns to businesses and schools, have disrupted regular, everyday life activities. That’s also true for professional and leisure sports and physical activities, which are slowly coming back.

Sports education is a powerful means to foster physical fitness and mental well-being. Northport VA Medical Center’s Adaptive Sports has partnered with PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the flagship for Veteran and military programs of PGA’s REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America.

VA’s research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery, and improving overall quality of life. For many injured Veterans, adaptive sports provide their first exposure to physical activity after injury.

World War II Veteran Eugene Leavy, 95, receives hands on instruction from Michael Giossi, PGA Golf instructor.

PGA HOPE introduces golf to Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. PGA HOPE’s partnership with VA enables recreational therapists to refer Veterans to the program as a form of therapy.

With a little help from golf pros

For the past five years, the PGA Tour Superstore has partnered with the Northport VA hospital offering free golf sessions on their indoor golf simulator. This partnership gives Veterans the opportunity to practice their golfing pre-season as well as receive instruction and tips from professional golfers.

Pictured above, left to right, WWII Veteran Eugene Leavy; Jinny Mullen, Northport VA recreation therapist; and Veteran Joe Cauciella, giving a thumbs up for the program.

The program became especially valuable during the winter months when many found they were home isolating and experiencing negative emotions. Participating in this program enhanced the mental, social and physical well-being of our Veterans.

A mission to change a life

PGA professionals receive specialized training on how to teach Veterans in the HOPE program.

“The pros I’ve heard from all want to do more,” said PGA golf instructor Michael Giossi. “We chose a mission to impact lives through this game. You’re not dealing with not just how to hit a 7 iron, but how to live your life and how to change a life. It’s just a whole other layer of giving back. And the fulfillment of being with Veterans is a rewarding experience.”

The opportunity to get out and socialize with other Veterans has been an amazing experience, both physically and mentally, especially during the pandemic. “Opportunities like these for young Veterans such as myself are limited. For me to get out here, socialize and be active is rewarding,” said WWII Veteran, Eugene Leavy, 95.

Program participants always require a face covering and must have a consult prior to participating in any Adaptive Sporting event.


Chad E. Cooper is a public and congressional affairs officer for the Northport New York VA.

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7 Comments

  1. Lowell Setterlund February 25, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    I found out I was dropped from the program here at Phoenix. The previous coordinator, Johanna, would not have treated me like this. Now I have to get another referral, but why would I when you aren’t welcomed. I just hope I can still sign up for the Golden Age Games without being in sometime of program.

  2. Shirley Hilscher February 24, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    I have read numerous articles about Adaptive Sports therapy. Why doesn’t my healthcare provider or pain management specialists ever talk about a therapy such as this to their patients? Granted I’m live in Texas and sports rarely get sidelined here but why isn’t it trickling down the chain to some of the smaller VA facilities like in South Texas. I know I would appreciate it being 100% disabled myself.

    • G Palumbo February 25, 2021 at 11:52 pm

      I agree —I had to find out about Rec Therapy for my dad completely on my own. When I tell his docs about it they say they had no info on the program!AMAZING….

    • Gregory Strong March 1, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      I use the VA in Temple Tx.. I found out about their Adaptive Sports Program by being admitted to the Domicillary in 2017 due to Mental Health issues. The Mental Health Clinic Providers should be able to refer you to a program of interest. The ones i know are Archery, Air Rifles, Boci Ball, Bicycling, there are others like Music Therapy as well.

      There is also the VA craft store in Temple where you can pick up to complete at your leisure, models, wood craft kits and other things Free at no cost. Crafts for Women and Men!
      Gregory Strong – Army Veteran

  3. Thomas J Morsch February 21, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    Hello and thanks for helping us vets – We may not say it often enough, but we value very much the VA health professionals at the VA facilities.

    The VA center in Rochester NY is wonderful. The chiropractor there, gave me back my love of golf when several professionals and fitness centers on the “outside” could not help me. Dr. Eric Truesdell gave me back my will to improve, get better, and compete again in the game I love. I am indebted to him. So I always speak very highly of the Rochester VA.

    I am 40% disabled due to a gunshot shoulder wound incurred in VietNam in 1968. It makes golf tough and painful but I love to play and I’m competitive with my good friends and high school classmates. There are about ten of us who get together once a week to play.

    After all of that, “Is there a facility or program in the Rochester area that partners with local Pros in the PGA Hope/Reach program”? Thank you.

  4. Emery McCoy February 21, 2021 at 6:19 pm

    I am a totally disabled Veteran and can’t walk on my own now and it is mostly due to ,I feel lack of motion and movement that has put me completely on the sidelines! I know prior to COVID, the pool at the YMCA was working miracles for me. I just started therapy 2 weeks before a problem with my pain management in refilling my implanted pump with liquid premixed pain meds. I did not get my pump refilled and was therefore removed from my pain meds of 10 plus years. So i was forced to stop therapy and in it’s place I had to deal with 2 weeks of withdrawal symptoms!!!
    Bottom line is, if I could get back to an activity such as golf, I honestly think in short time I could ditch the pain medications!!! It would be a slow start and would never be what it was before, but I think it would be a life changing experience in maybe a year or less. I know I would dearly love the opportunity of giving it a go. Indoor golfing would be my VETERAN’S MIRACLE DRUG!!!

  5. Joseph LaJeunesse February 21, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    I am a 100% disabled veteran who is ambulatory. I began playing golf at age ten with my father and continued onward for more than twenty years. I also joined my middle school and high school golf teams.

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