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.
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.