If you're military and want a free get away or want to get involved in helping others discover the healing power of recreation you’ll love the National Ability Center (NAC)! No matter where your political allegiances fall, you'll probably agree that we're living during a divisive time. A time when turning on the nightly news can be enough to make your blood pressure skyrocket. I believe that in times like these, the heart-driven work of organizations like the NAC becomes more important than ever! A welcome dose of inspiration and unfiltered positivity. I'm so excited to share their mission with you today, since it's all about unity, community, and empowerment.
What is the National Ability Center?
This phenomenal non-profit was founded in 1985, by Meeche White, a woman with a big vision. It exists to provide high-quality, inclusive programs to people of all abilities and backgrounds, including those in need. The center's programming is focused on sports and the outdoors, recreation and educational programs, giving all participants the chance to feel physically powerful and capable. The NAC is open to everyone, but is especially supportive of differently abled people who are struggling to feel confident and independent.
As you might imagine, I found them through my work with wounded warriors and their wives, since the center has several programs geared toward wounded veterans and their caregivers. I think being able to use my job to get into places and do things that matter is the biggest gift, because it’s not about me.
In fact, two of the women profiled in my book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, had transformative experiences through programs like the ones the NAC offers. Their stories show how pivotal these offerings can be in a warrior's recovery process, and his reconnection to his family.
How outdoor and recreational programs heal
Jane had become resigned to not traveling or going on adventures, and she missed that part of her life. Then she and her veteran husband, Kyle, had the chance to participate in skiing program that changed everything. Kyle had lost both of his legs to an IUD, so instructors strapped him into a monoski and put him on the bunny hill. Jane skied alongside him and watched him open up and transform before her eyes. This program got him out of his shell and rekindled their shared love of the outdoors.
Larry lost an arm and an eye while fighting in Iraq, and returned home a changed man. His wife, Kendal, struggled to reconnect with him for months before discovering the equestrian center. At the time, Larry knew nothing about horses, but had always been curious about them. Months later, he would say in couples therapy that being close to the animals, smelling them, hearing them breathe, and feeling their soft yet powerful necks brought him a feeling of connectedness he could barely explain. He said it was the first time since his deployment that he remembered feeling comfortable in his own skin.
These experiences, these opportunities for reconnection and deep healing, are what the NAC provides. Service members who incurred service-related injuries or illness are given access to all National Ability Center sports and recreation programing at absolutely no cost to the service member or their family members. How incredible is that?
Supporting the NAC's outstanding services
On July 1, I hosted a book signing at Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, Utah, and donated $250 of the proceeds to the NAC. At the event, I was lucky enough to connect with Kevin Stickelman, the organization's COO, and told him in person how much I admired the work his organization pioneered. Spending time at the Park City facility, I learned more about their programs for returning military veterans. These include PTSD camps, healing through horses, and multi-day wellness retreats. The NAC offers cycling, waterskiing, archery, and golfing in summer, skiing, snowboarding, fat-tire biking, and snowshoeing in winter. All for our brave wounded warriors and their amazing families.
All of us have wounds, but not everyone can see them. The National Ability Center concentrates on healing both visible and invisible wounds though sports and outdoor activity. As participants build self-confidence, they gradually feel capable of taking on more challenges and living more successful lives. I'm proud to support and volunteer with them, and invite you to do the same: You can donate here, sign up to volunteer, and find information on matched gifts and corporate sponsorships, too. We can all serve those who serve. I may not wear a uniform, but I can give back in other ways. Volunteering to help with skiing and horseback riding is my niche, but you may find another way to contribute.
And don't forget, you can still order copies of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife on Amazon!